RESTORE project deadline extended

When the BP oil spill occurred in April 2010, skimmers like these were a common sight in Pensacola area waterways. Photo credit: University of West Florida

The Escambia RESTORE deadline has been extended until Friday, Oct. 2.

Sept. 30 was the deadline for people seeking a share of the $58 million over 15 years that Escambia County is expected to see from the RESTORE Act to submit their projects. But a technical glitch caused the portal to close at 11:59 on Sept. 29, according to Escambia County public information officials.

“To accommodate anyone who may have been affected by this temporary closure, (the) county has extended the original deadline,” said Amanda Taft, Escambia’s interim community and media relations division manager. “The portal will remain open until 11:59 p.m. on Friday, October 2.”

The county’s RESTORE Committee will evaluate the projects submitted based on the scoring criteria they set up earlier this year.  All of the criteria are linked here.

RESTORE is an acronym for Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies. It is the federal law that sets aside a portion of the fines paid by oil giant BP under the Clean Water Act for projects in the communities most impacted by the oil spill that resulted from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.

The RESTORE process will have a critical impact on the quality of life in the Pensacola metro area for decades to come. RESTORE projects are meant to restore ecological damage caused by the spill, diversify the area’s economy and boost tourism opportunities. Each of those impact key metrics in the Studer Community Institute’s Pensacola Metro Dashboard.

The dashboard, created in consultation with the University of West Florida’s Office of Economic Development and Engagement, is an at-a-glance of social, economic and educational measures that impact the quality of life in the community.

Some of the projects in the portal include:

Building community resilience for environmental disasters. Led by Be Ready Alliance Coordinating for Emergencies (BRACE), this project would help create a disaster plan to mobilize volunteers in environmental and technological emergencies. BRACE would coordinate the training of volunteers, expand to environmental education outreach in basic Citizen Corps training in the CERT and TEEN CERT classes.

Chappie James Flight Academy and Museum. A public-private partnership among the City of Pensacola’s Community Redevelopment Agency,  “Chappie” James Museum of Pensacola and the General Daniel “Chappie” James, Jr. Flight Academy to use low impact design for stormwater treatment in the renovation of the historic home and birth site of America’s first African American four star general, now a city park, to house a state of the art museum and youth flight academy. The city has applied for a Florida DEP grant for the project as well.

Escambia Treating Site Commerce Park. Effort would pay for creating a master plan for the redevelopment of the Escambia Wood Treating Co. Superfund Site off North Palafox Street. The master plan will include the design layout for utilities infrastructure, streets, stormwater, and all elements of redevelopment of a commerce park.

South Old Corry Field Road bridge replacement. Washed out by the April 2014 flooding, this phased project would see a replacement bridge redesigned from existing box culverts into precast-arched, concrete bridge with precast concrete headwalls and wing walls to armor and maximize sustainability. Box culvert replacement will allow stormwater to flow under the road and minimize repetitive infrastructure destruction.

Big Lagoon Ecosystem Restoration Project. This plan has been around since 1999, when the county first suggested it to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as part of an effort to restore the Big Lagoon ecosystem. Stormwater runoff is one of the things that makes the area’s salinity level borderline for healthy seagrasses. The project — off Sinton Drive near the Lost Key Marina and Yacht Club — would build a system of rock reefs, provide replacement habitat and create a venue for recreational activities, such as boating, fishing and snorkeling.

Beach Haven stormwater and sewer project. The project — planned in four phases — covers an 861-acre area, includes drainage enhancements; replacement of unsafe deep roadside ditches; prevention of roadway flooding, roadway shoulder pooling, and adjacent lot flooding; roadway reconstruction and resurfacing improvements; constructing of a community wastewater collection system, and phase-out of septic tanks within the Bayou Chico and Bayou Grande watersheds. It will include using local options sales tax money, state funding in future phases and financial assistance for property owners to connect to the new sewer system. Escambia County’s Redevelopment Agency has 50% reimbursement grants available to all properties in the Warrington Redevelopment area. Property owners who are income-constrained and cannot afford to connect to the sewer system may apply through Escambia County’s Neighborhood Enterprise Division for income-based assistance. The Emerald Coast Utilities Authority, which is the sewer service provider, waives sewer impact fees when connections occur within 365 days of the issuance of Notification of Availability.  

Stormwater improvements at Lake Charlene/Bridle Trail. Lake Charlene drains into Jones Creek Swamp, which in turns flows into Bayou Chico east of Old Corry Field Road. It had major issues in the April 2014 flood. Improving stormwater management here reduces the chance of future flooding and improve the water quality of Bayou Chico, a major environmental goal of the county’s.

Escambia OYSTER Project. The Escambia County Offer Your Shell to Enhance Restoration (OYSTER) project builds a Living Shoreline Demonstration area at Civitan Park in West Pensacola with four oyster reefs. The project would collect recycled oyster shells from local restaurants to be used as substrate to restore 200 reefs in the Pensacola Bay System and restore 4,700 linear feet of waterfront footage with 23,500 square feet of vegetation.

Project AIMS. Led by Pensacola State College, who partnered with Escambia County School District, University of West Florida, Early Learning Coalition of Escambia County, CareerSource Escarosa, business and nonprofit agencies, the program will expand overall training opportunities, provide 400 participants, including 100 eligible low-income individuals from targeted areas who will receive additional wraparound supportive services, with the education and training necessary to enter and advance in high skill, wage and demand AIMS/STEM jobs.

Improve access for those with disability at Pensacola Beach. Project Universal Access, which will have four phases, will look at how technology may help visitors who are visually and hearing impaired access information they need at Pensacola Beach, Perdidio Key, Johnson Beach, proposed ferry landings at all points and special events.

Navy Point beautification and restoration. The project scope includes drainage enhancements to the existing drainage system, reconstruction with dedicated sidewalks, signs, access management, and abundant landscaping, creation of wetlands, stream restoration along County owned properties adjacent to tributaries, shoreline restoration along a section of Bayou Grande, construction of a sanitary sewer system (replacing leaching septic systems within the Bayou Grande watershed), and the proposed sewer expansion along Navy Boulevard.

— Jackson’s Lakes Diversion project and wakeboard park. The site — three former borrow pits that became stormwater ponds — will see repairs made from the April 2014 flooding, and water quality monitoring. County staff is evaluating the area for future recreational use.

Public beach access at Perdido Key. The project will improve county-owned access areas to the beach west of Perdido Key State Park. US Fish and Wildlife Service to obtain a 3.69 acre parcel located in the 16400 block of Perdido Key Drive to benefit endangered species and provide much needed public access. Through the addition of 50 parking spaces, this will increase county beach access by 37 percent.

Scenic Highway’s Scenic Pathway. This project will provide the design and completion of a paved, multiuse path on the east side of Scenic Highway, restoration vegetation and three stop/rest points along Scenic Highway from Texar Bayou to Olive Road, approximately 10 miles.

—  Perdido Key multiuse path. Design work for a 6.5-mile, paved multiuse path on the north side of Perdido Key Drive from the Alabama state line to the Theo Baars Bridge.

Pensacola Beach dune walkovers. $705,000 to replace 11 of the 33 dune walkovers on Pensacola Beach from Park East to Park West. The new walkovers will include handicapped accessible observation decks for wheelchairs on the south end of the walkways.

Escambia County Regional Sediment Management Plan. The project seeks funding for planning what it would take to create a sediment master plan for the area. Such a plan would include a master list of present and future projects that involve placement, removal, or processing of sediment as a major component to ensure sediment is used and moved with best practices in mind.

Brownsville Redevelopment Plan. This initiative, linked to the Brownsville redevelopment plan approved by the county in 2004, has five pieces: a nature trail through the Gulf Power easement beginning on the west side of W Street turning north at Grandview St. and continuing north to Mobile Highway; six affordable housing units with a shared park/community garden on Frontera Circle; multi-family affordable housing development at 300 block of Godwin Street with a shared park/community garden; improvements to the Brownsville festival site at 3322 Mobile Highway including a permanent stage, restroom facility, and native landscaping; improvements to the outside of the Brownsville Community Center at 3100 W. Desoto St. to include drainage improvements in the parking lot, native landscaping, signage and a mural on the outside of the building.

Hybrid ferries for the National Park Service. There are no “off-the-shelf” all electric or hybrid ferries ready for purchase, but custom-built vessels are in service today. Ferries powered this way could decrease fuel costs for the Park Service’s passenger ferries, set to run between downtown Pensacola, Pensacola Beach, and Fort Pickens.

Highlighting women in STEM fields. “STEM Story” would be a half-hour weekly PBS Gulf Coast TV show. Each show would profile four or five profiles women who are working in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It would encourage girls to see their future in such fields and would air weekly for two years beginning in March 2016.

Adding digital radiology to Nemours Children’s Clinic at Sacred Heart Hospital. To reduce the amount of radiation exposure pediatric patients experience during the medical imaging process, Nemours would like to convert its existing medical imaging space and install two digital radiation machines. It will provide better image quality than traditional x-ray machines, allow more images to be taken and processed in a shorter period of time, and, most importantly, help reduce radiation exposure for patients by 50 to 60 percent.

Hampton Lake stormwater. Project of updating culverts along Dog Track Road and retention ponds would prevent Hampton Lake community of 77 townhouses from flooding.

Warrington Community Crisis Center. A community crisis center in the area near 1002 Navy Blvd., roughly near Warrington Middle School, that residents nearby could use in a natural disaster.

Cantonment Community Center. A community center for the Cantonment CRA off Muscogee Road. Cantonment is a traditionally underserved area and the center could serve as a job training center, library, adult education center, center for tutoring, senior citizens center, recreation center and housing assistance center. The center will be designed to LEED standards with a strong focus on native landscaping and habitat restoration. The native landscaping will be enhanced with walking/bike paths and a community garden.

— LA’s Funtainment Center. The venue is a proposed bowling alley, skating rink, arcade and bar and grill off Romana Street near Corrinne Jones Park.

— Adding solar panels to Habitat for Humanity homes to improved their energy efficiency.

— Restoring the chimney at Chimney Park and making stormwater improvements at the park along Scenic Highway.

Mapping and assessing the oyster reefs in Escambia and Pensacola bays to determine the health of the habitat on both bay floors for oyster reef restoration.

See all of the projects here.