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Monroe County Planning For More Millions From Gulf Oil Spill Settlements

Photo courtesy of REX
Hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements and fines from the Deepwater Horizon spill are starting to make its way to Florida — including to the Keys, where no oil washed ashore.";

None of the 200 million gallons of oil from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon accident washed ashore in the Florida Keys.

But because it has shoreline on the Gulf of Mexico, Monroe County is still getting a share of the hundreds of millions of dollars  in settlements and penalties from the disaster.  

"We were affected economically and also environmentally and also emotionally traumatized by the threat," said Monroe County Commissioner George Neugent, who has represented the Keys in talks about dividing up the settlement money. "The Loop Current became an everyday used word, even though most people didn't even know what the heck the Loop Current was."

Most of the money so far has gone to the so-called "big eight" counties that saw direct impacts from the oil spill. But the most recent pot of money, totaling $286 million, will be divided equally among the 23 Florida Gulf Coast counties from Escambia in the Panhandle down to Monroe.

That comes out to about $12.4 million each.

"We're still several years away from that money," said Lisa Tennyson, Monroe County's director of legislative affairs. "The first step was deciding how that money was going to get distributed. Now we have to do the hard work of developing the plan."

Monroe had already decided to spend an earlier, smaller settlement from the spill on coral restoration and cleaning up canals. Canal clean-up is still high on the priority list, Neugent said.

And Monroe is hoping to persuade the federal and state governments that control the money to allow them to "front load" it, rather than parcel it out over 15 years.

"We're shovel ready. We're ready to do some projects," Neugent said. "We could spend $12 million in two or three years."

Nancy Klingener was WLRN's Florida Keys reporter until July 2022.
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