County fast-tracks Kingfish improvements

Kingfish boat ramp
Kingfish boat ramp, the most popular ramp in the county, is now at the top of the county’s BP oil spill funding list for rebuilding and expansion. - Cindy Lane | Sun

HOLMES BEACH – Manatee County commissioners have moved Kingfish boat ramp’s rebuilding and expansion project to the top of the list for RESTORE Act funds.

The most heavily used boat ramp in the county has “severe structural deficiencies” that require both emergency and permanent repairs and expansion to accommodate increasing use, Parks and Natural Resources Director Charlie Hunsicker said.

The project is expected to cost about $4.5 million and begin next year.

RESTORE Act funds are a penalty paid by BP for the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion in the northern Gulf of Mexico in 2010, which killed 11 workers and caused the worst environmental disaster in the Gulf in history. Pieces of the rig washed up on an Anna Maria Island beach in 2015.

The 23 Florida counties on the Gulf coast are allocated $12.7 million each from the funds for environmental projects, Hunsicker said, with Manatee County set to receive funds every four years for 15 years beginning next month.

The new priority list topped by Kingfish will be submitted for approval to the Florida Restore Act Gulf Consortium, which administers the funds, he said.

The reprioritization requires delaying other projects, including a $5 million Palmetto Green Bridge fishing pier replacement project, now set for 2023. Other projects, including a $3 million Manatee River oyster restoration project and a $1 million Larry Borden artificial reef enhancement project in the Gulf will be deferred to the 10th year and beyond, Hunsicker said.

Additional projects in line for county BP oil spill funds include a $1 million living shoreline at Portosueno Park on Palma Sola Bay and $300,000 to research shellfish aquaculture and restore habitat at Port Manatee.

RESTORE Act projects for preserve management and coastal watershed management will be taken off the list and funded by other sources to free up funds for Kingfish boat ramp, he said.