SANTA ROSA, Fla. (WALA) - Two years after the worst environmental disaster in US history devastated Gulf beaches, communities along the coast continue to recover.
Now, money from the RESTORE Act will help Gulf Coast communities restore to some semblance of their former glory.
Buck Lee, Executive Director for the Santa Rosa Island Authority, witnessed the disaster from Pensacola Beach.
"You could not walk to the Gulf without stepping in oil. It was terrible. It was up about 60 feet from the Gulf, all the way down the beach. I looked at that and wondered 'How will we get back to normal?," said Lee.
Officials say 98 percent of the oil that hit the state of Florida washed ashore in Escambia County.
Thanks to cleanup efforts the coast has bounced back.
The RESTORE Act, passed by Congress Friday as part of the federal Transportation Act, is expected to bring billions of dollars from Clean Water Act fines imposed on BP to the affected areas.
Congressman Jeff Miller, as well as other officials, plan to hold a press conference on Pensacola Beach Tuesday morning to announce the RESTORE Act passing through Congress.
"We don't know how much they'll be fined. Some people say $5 billion and some say $20 billion. The county's looking at $100 million but no one knows for sure for at least another year or so. That'll give us time to look at the projects we want," Lee said.
He says they plan to put whatever money they get towards restoring the beach, building pedestrian walkways, advertising, as well as other projects.
"To see what this can do for our area -—of course we're talking about Pensacola beach but also Perdido Key, Gulf Shores all the way to Louisiana — it's going to help all of us," said Lee.
State and local officials have been fighting to get the bill passed in Washington D.C. since the oil spill.
"This was the right thing to do. It was the right thing to do for the Gulf Coast and for America. It was responsible and the areas affected by the oil spill are the ones that will be restored. That's what's so gratifying about this legislation," Lee said.
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