Florida residents asked how to spend $4 million for marine research after BP oil disaster

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Florida will receive $4 million for research as part of the Transocean settlement after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.

Thursday night at Madeira Beach City Hall, residents had an opportunity to say how they want that money spent. Eight people showed up for the forum to give their input.

Congress passed the Restore Act to compensate the states around the Gulf of Mexico that were affected by the BP oil disaster. An 800 million dollar Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund was set up from the criminal settlement with Transocean.

Florida will receive half a percent of that, or $4 million dollars, for scientific research. It will be administered by the Florida Institute of Oceanography, based in St. Petersburg. FIO’s director, Bill Hogarth, says the public will determine what the focus will be.

The devil is in the details, but in general in order to qualify for the research money the proposal needs to be made by Florida residents or companies that focus on Florida’s marine issues. Proposals will be vetted by a management team of academics, experts and professionals. Hogarth stresses the need for baseline data collection.

Pete Quasius, advocacy director of Audubon of the Western Everglades, is hopeful that long-term impact studies will make their way into the grant proposal submissions.

The money has been specifically earmarked for research. Four million dollars may sound like a lot, but how far can the research grant money be spread? By his own admission, this idea vexes Bill Hogarth. He remains realistic.

This was the first of three hearings throughout the state; the others will be in Naples and Pensacola. Decisions will likely be made in January but no money will be dispersed until the summer of 2015.

Here is the public comment survey on FIO website