The proposed fish hatchery at the historical Bruce Beach has raised concerns for African American heritage preservation, area environmental issues, disabled community access, and return on investment related to job creation projections. These are matters that will be addressed at the civic center when representatives of the US Department of the Interior, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and the Natural Resources Damage Assessment (NRDA) Trustee Council arrive in Pensacola, Florida on January 28, 2014. There will also be a meeting, at 11:30 PM at City Hall for persons with disabilities, agencies representing persons with disabilities, the African-American community and other minorities to discuss ways under-represented groups can participate in the process that will determine how millions of funds in BP fines and settlements will be utilized for community projects under NRDA.
The Florida Gulf Coast Marine Fisheries Hatchery is one of several projects determined in 2011 to receive financial support from BP in the amount of nearly $1 billion. These dollars are part of the Deepwater Horizon disaster’s NRDA process and should not be confused with the ongoing Escambia County RESTORE Act Advisory Board meetings to decide how millions are to be spent by the Escambia County Commission. The NRDA process will provide research on the impact of the spill and approve dollars that for restoring the natural resources and lost recreational use of those resources.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will oversee the project. Gil McCrae, Executive Director of the commission made a statement to the Pensacola Voice: “Even though this project is referred to in shorthand as “the hatchery” it is much more than that. While we will be raising fish with the goal of stocking them into the waters of the northern Gulf to enhance fishing opportunities, we are also creating an outreach and education center where local citizens and visitors can learn more about the importance of healthy coastal ecosystems to Florida’s economy and quality of life. We also plan to develop educational exhibits and opportunities for young people to learn about recreating in the outdoors through partnerships with our FWC Youth Conservation Center Networks Program (see http://fyccn.org/). We are particularly enthused about recognizing and documenting the cultural importance of the site and look forward to working with local leaders on those elements of the project.”
A quick review of the project’s historical path begins with Mayor Ashton Hayward’s request in June 2011 that the City Council approve his proposal to negotiate a 50-year lease for Bruce Beach on Pensacola’s waterfront immediately west of the Community Maritime Park, for $1 annually. In addition to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, other partners include the Hubbs SeaWorld Research Institute and Mote Marine Laboratory which would operate the hatchery.
When representatives of the US Department of the Interior, Florida Fish and Wildlife officials, and Florida representatives of the NRDA Trustee Council arrive in Pensacola, Florida on January 28, 2014 for the 6:00 PM meeting at the civic center they will hear any concerns on the proposed projects. The earlier meeting scheduled for 11:30 AM at Pensacola City Hall in the Vince Whibbs room on the second floor is targeting local under- represented stakeholders to become educated on the public participation procedures for NRDA funding and the thought process that strengthens public response online, by mail, and at public meetings. Food will be provided and an RSVP is required by January 24th by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling the Center for Independent Living Disability Resource Center. All persons needing special accommodations pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act should contact the Disability Resource Center no later the 23rd of January.