We agree a portion of the compensation money from the 2010 oil spill should be set aside to combat water pollution. If the money is designed to help us recover from the spill, making sure local waterways are clean is a sound strategy to protect the environment.
That's why we're encouraged to see a regional approach to improve our ecological health. Led by the Nature Conservancy, a group that includes federal, state and local agencies, nonprofits, residents and industries has formed to prepare a master plan of how to best protect our local water. Chief on the list is to look at projects submitted to the Department of Environmental Protection that seek to be paid for out of any Restore Act money headed to Escambia and Santa Rosa counties. It's estimated that tens of millions of dollars are headed to each county for economic and environmental projects to help us continue to recover.
We have advocated that locals should have the greatest influence in how that money should be spent. Committees in each county have been charged with making recommendations on how best to spend the money. But we also agree with Escambia County's Keith Wilkins that some projects should focus on the environment across Northwest Florida.
"We have multiple jurisdictions that tend to look at things linear and not from a watershed solution," he told reporter Kimberly Blair for a story published Friday. "Our intent was to erase those jurisdiction boundaries when it comes to the Restore money."
Pollution anywhere in the two-county area affects the entire area. That little dribble of gas that is spilled when the lawn mower is overfilled gradually finds its way into ground water. Red clay from roads gets dumped into local water, killing seagrass and oyster beds.
Also, the city of Milton's master plan wisely takes aim at leaky septic tanks. That sewage makes its way into the Blackwater River, a key element of the city's growth and economic health. That water then finds its way into Blackwater Bay, and eventually into the Gulf.
It's easy to see leaky tanks aren't solely a Milton or Santa Rosa County problem, but a regional problem. That's why a unified approach to the area's environmental health is the best strategy.
-- Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal