Published: August 2013 Southern Boating
© 2013 Troy Gilbert
With penalties and fines expected to conservatively reach into the multiple of billions of dollars from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, BP voluntarily allocated $1 billion into early environmental restoration and remediation efforts along the Northern Gulf Coast as a pre-payment towards these certain fines. The majority of these funds will go to the rebuilding of marshes, bird habitats, coastal dunes and certainly commercial fisheries, however a portion of this funding will be directed towards recreational boating.
Through a process known as the National Resource Damages Assessment(NRDA), the NRDA is currently embarked on 160 studies to determine the environmental, commercial and human impacts of the 2010 oil spill. The Trustees of this organization are made up of representatives from the states involved as well as multiple Federal agencies that will determine where to direct these and all future monies for remediation efforts. Billions of dollars from this early and future funding will flow directly to the restoration of the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the panhandle of Florida.
With entire bays, estuaries and marinas boomed off to protect against the crude oil, it wasn’t only nature and the commercial fisherman who experienced loss in 2010, nearly the entire recreational boating season all along the northern Gulf of Mexico was also a casualty. In an effort to compensate state and local communities for this “loss of human use” for their citizens and tourists, an early example is taking place in Escambia County, Florida.
After reviewing proposals from state and local governments as well as organizations, the Trustees of the NRDA funds selected a group of 8 projects for this early round of funding. Through this, over $5 million has been allocated for public boat ramps in Escambia County, Florida which includes the City of Pensacola and equals a very real investment into public access to the waterways.
The four boat launches and corresponding infrastructure include Galvez Landing, Navy Point, Perdido and the Mahogany Mill boat ramps. Two of these are existing facilities that were heavily utilized during the oil spill response efforts and will be dredged and repaired including the piers and docks. Perdido and Mahogany Mill are completely new launch facilities that will be constructed on land previously acquired by the county. Located on Bayou Chico and the Perdido River, these new state of the art ramps are hoped will ease much of the overcrowding at the existing public boat launches. The Perdido site will become the largest freshwater boat launch in Escambia County.
These four boat ramps equal only $5 million out of the projected $60+ million approved for early projects out of BP’s initial and voluntary down payment of $1 billion. In May, a further 19 recreational boating projects were identified and are under review. With more billions of dollars to follow, there are many rightful investments into the recreational boating infrastructure on the Northern Gulf Coast which could and inevitably will be funded through this process which is only now ramping up.