Oil Spill Project Meeting Draws A Big Crowd In Pensacola

Feb 5, 2014

A Natural Environmental Resource Damage Assessment, or NERDA meeting was held this week in Pensacola as public comment on Phase 3 of the early restoration projects from the BP Oil Spill continues.

Local officials and citizens jam the first floor meeting room at the Pensacola Bay Center for Monday evening's NRDA Phase 3 meeting
Credit Bob Barrett / WUWF News

There was a standing room only crowd in the first floor meeting room at the Pensacola Bay Center Monday night as officials met with the public about the progress of restoration projects from the BP oil spill.  The projects are part of Phase Three of the restoration efforts. Mimi Drew represents the State of Florida as one of the Natural Resource Damage Trustees. She spoke at the meeting and outlined the many projects proposed for the region including the fish hatchery slated for downtown Pensacola.

The proposed hatchery project has been getting the most attention and was the subject of much of the public comment after the meeting.  Gil McCrea is the director of the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. He also spoke at the Bay Center Monday evening and explained the project is a lot more than a fish hatchery. The official title of the project is the Gulf Coast Marine Fisheries Enhancement Center. It does include a hatchery that will stock sport fish in waters throughout the northern panhandle. It would also be a local educational center where people could learn about local habitats and their connection to active fisheries.  If approved, the project, which is proposed for the Bruce Beach area on Pensacola Bay west of Maritime Park, would be the only salt water fish hatchery i n the state of Florida.

NRDA Trustee Mimi Drew addresses Monday's meeting.
Credit Bob Barrett / WUWF News

And while most of the energy in the room was directed towards the hatchery project, it was by no means the only one up for discussion. In all there are 44 proposed projects in Phase Three, with 10 proposed in Escambia, Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties and another three for the Alabama coast. These include Perdido Key dune restoration and boardwalk improvements, The Bob Sikes Pier parking and trail restoration, Navarre Beach access and dune restoration and a reef project that impacts the whole region.

Public comments were taken after the meeting and, as expected, the hatchery project was the main attraction. Several environmentalists spoke out against the project, preferring the money be used for wildlife and water projects including restoring sea grass beds in the bay. Many local officials, including Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward used the public comment period to speak in favor of the project, as did Escambia County Commissioner Grover Robinson.  

Destin Mayor Sarah "Sam" Seevers spoke in favor of the Noriega Point stabilization project in Destin. 

The public comment period on all of the projects in Phase 3 continues until February 19. 

You can make a comment on the Phase 3 Projects HERE.