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BB to submit five BP funding projects

By Mark Young, Islander Reporter

No one is sure how much money be awarded in the 2010 BP Deep Horizon oil spill litigation, but municipalities are already lining up to spend it.

It’s been estimated that Manatee County’s share of a yet-to-be-determined settlement could be $4 million-$19 million. States have a choice in how to disperse the money, and Florida has chosen to disburse the funds directly to the Gulf Coast counties impacted by the disaster.

Louisiana, meanwhile, opted to absorb its share of the BP settlement directly into state coffers.

Manatee County Natural Resources Department director Charlie Hunsicker has asked local municipalities to submit a list of projects that meet the criteria of how the spill impacted communities.

Hunsicker wants project proposals in place to be graded on the criteria and will create a priority list in which to disburse funds once they are received.

Bradenton Beach will submit at least five projects, according to building official Steve Gilbert, who updated commissioners at their March 7 capital improvement projects meeting.

“Congress has already appropriated monies from the RESTORE Act, but there is no money there until the lawsuit is settled,” said Gilbert. “In the meantime, Charlie wants to know about our proposed projects.”

Criteria to be eligible for RESTORE Act funding include dune restoration, environmental protection projects and beach nourishment.

Gilbert said the city’s best chance for funding is with the John Chappie Park, 1400 Gulf Drive N. He estimates an $80,000 cost to create a dune, walkover, and a boardwalk with kiosks along the path to educate visitors about sea turtles and other wildlife.

“John Chappie Park is probably our most ambitious project, and our most valuable,” he said. “We figured this is a good time as any to see if we can get it on the priority list. It’s perfect for an environmental display project.”

Katie Pierola Park, 2206 Gulf Drive N., also is a proposed project.

Gilbert said additional beach renourishment and the establishment of dunes and a chickee hut is part of the proposal, “but that’s not set in stone. It’s just an idea of something we want to do there.”

The estimated cost is $85,000.

Thirdly, Gilbert said the beach access at 11th Street North needs clarification. He said a 1993 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers map shows it as an access, “but it kind of meanders into private property.”

For $50,000 of RESTORE Act funding, Gilbert said signage, landscaping and a clear defining of the beach access would help keep people from straying on private property.

“That access isn’t even identified right now,” he said. “It’s a nice place to put in a grade level entrance and a dune walkover onto the beach.”

Gilbert said his fourth proposal is an overall restoration and enhancement of city beach accesses. He estimates the cost at $160,000.

“It would be to restore public beach access as far as identifying those accesses and maybe adding dune walkovers, as well as identifying parking spaces that might be available,” he said.

Commissioner Ric Gatehouse has previously suggested the city look seriously at the Cortez Beach parking situation. Gatehouse has proposed diagonal parking that would force traffic one way back onto Gulf Drive.

Gatehouse said he would like that project to be among the RESTORE Act proposals.

“My experience in life is when you don’t ask the questions, the answer is always no,” he said. “I’d hate to be here a year from now and ask why we didn’t ask for it when we had the chance.”

Gilbert was given a consensus to proceed with submitting five projects to Manatee County.

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