State and Regional Leaders Discuss Using Restore Act Funds To Re - WMBB News 13 - The Panhandle's News Leader

State and Regional Leaders Discuss Using Restore Act Funds To Restore Apalachicola River

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Billions of dollars will flow into the Gulf region from the Restore Act Settlement of the BP oil spill. It's not yet clear just how much Florida's affected counties will receive, but that hasn't kept state and regional leaders from coming up with ideas on how to spend the money.

At a press conference Saturday at the Panama City branch of Florida State University, leaders say restoring the Apalachicola River is a priority.

"This is the Grand Canyon of Northwest Florida," says former U.S. Senator and Florida Governor Bob Graham. He is referring to the Apalachicola River, a waterway everyone agreed at Saturday's press conference is in need of serious help.

"We're looking at historic low flows and I mean lowest flows ever recorded," says Dan Tonsmeire, an Apalachicola River Keeper who says groundwater levels are also at historic lows with a drought that continues to plague the state each year.

All of these things Tonsmeire says then have a negative impact on the Apalachicola Bay and Franklin County oystermen.

"What that precipitates into the Bay is very high salinity, high temperatures, low nutrients," says Tonsmeire.

The Apalachicola River's current state has had a domino effect on the Bay which Tonsemier says is near collapse.

Regional and state leaders want to use the potential billions of dollars that could flow in from the Restore Act to fix this.

"This may be a once in a lifetime for this river chance to recover," says Graham.

"You know you look at the Everglades and you spend 8 million 9 million to fix those up," thanks to Bob Graham," says Former Florida House Speaker, Allan Bense. "Well we have a chance for a fraction of that to save the Apalachicola River."

"Some of this money may go to clean out some of those sandbags so the river can benefit from those additional flows of water," says Graham as he refers to the dredge material in the river that blocks tributaries.

"I think anything to improve water quality in the Bay is good," says Tonsemeir on how to specifically allocate these funds in restoring the river. "So storm water wastewater treatment."

Graham says it's still unclear just how much money will be handed out but estimates 16 billion dollars could be shared among the 5 Gulf Coast states. He is also unsure how long it could take to receive such funds.