Panhandle Receives $88 Million for BP Oil Spill

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PANAMA CITY - After suffering the effects of the BP oil spill in 2010, the Panhandle is now reaping the benefits of the disaster. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection announced nearly two dozen grants Friday to pay for early restoration projects.

Eight counties, including Bay County, will be receiving $88 million dollars from the BP oil spill.

Downtown Panama City's marina transformed into a stage for a big economic announcement Friday morning. Elected officials came together to announce the Panhandle would be receiving $88 million dollars from the 2010 BP oil spill.

Although Bay County saw very few direct results of the spill, the perception of oil covered beaches cost the tourism industry millions.

"Because of the thought that there was oil, so many people did not come, whether it showed up or didn't show up, people didn't show up, dollars didn't show up," said Greg Brudnicki, Panama City Mayor.

Bay County will be receiving about five million dollars for several projects, including oyster reef restoration and a scallop enhancement program.

County officials also received money to improve five boat ramps and docks in Panama City, Parker, and Mexico Beach. Panama city and Parker will get two brand new fishing piers.

"Everyone has made it clear that we want to try and help the local economy in the best way we can and that's critical. It's important that we don't just look at the present, here and now, but also to the future," said Guy Tunnell, Bay County Commission Chairman.

DEP officials say they received about a thousand different project proposals from the Panhandle, but only those with federal government and BP approval selected for possible funding.

"We have a long way to go. We're not giving up. We will, as i mentioned earlier, we're fighting for the Panhandle," said Sec. Herschel Vinyard.

DEP officials will hold two public meetings in January before the proposed projects go any further. The final agreement should be signed in June.