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Pensacola Mayor responds to WEAR story

PENSACOLA - In his weekly newsletter, Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward wrote a long note and response to a recent WEAR story about the  Gulf Coast Marine Fisheries Hatchery and Enhancement Center at Pensacola's Bruce Beach.

Here is the Mayors newsletter response:
Last week, local TV station WEAR ran a story about the proposed Gulf Coast Marine Fisheries Hatchery and Enhancement Center, which Ive been working to bring to Pensacolas Bruce Beach. I strongly support this project as a key component of our economic and environmental recovery from the damage caused by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. In addition to the 12-15 permanent jobs created by this facility, an additional 20-30 construction jobs will be created, representing more than 1,900 worker-days. Once online, the facility is also expected to create new jobs in the commercial fishing and tourism industries.

WEARs story raised a number of questions about the effectiveness and impact of the proposed facility. Unfortunately, while my office shared all the facts with WEARs reporter, a lot of important information didnt make it into the report. I know that it can be challenging to fit everything into a two-minute story, but its important to me that our citizens are well-informed, so I wanted to take a moment to share the facts with you directly.

While WEARs story focused on the fish hatchery component, theres a lot more to this project. The proposed Hatchery and Enhancement Center would be a flagship facility which would help diversify our downtown waterfront, provide a destination for visitors, and further bolster Pensacolas growing reputation as a center for research and innovation. An integrated coastal habitat plant production pond will provide source plants for ecosystem restoration. In partnership with the University of West Florida, the hatchery will conduct research to support the Gulf Coast ecosystem. Additionally, there will be educational opportunities provided for students throughout the region, and the center will also recognize the history and heritage of the Bruce Beach site.

Many of the technical and environmental questions that have been raised have been addressed in considerable detail in the NRDA draft restoration plan and environmental impact report, available online at the Gulf Spill Restoration Portal. As we examine the project, its also important to note that the Hatchery and Enhancement Center is one of more than 40 interconnected restoration projects currently being considered, including millions in funding for seagrass recovery, living shoreline projects, and more. Taken separately, none of these projects is a cure-all, but together, these projects will have a tremendous impact toward restoring the Gulf Coast ecosystem.

Those who know me know that I am a strong believer in doing due diligence. The multiple federal and state agencies which comprise the NRDA trustees including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Environmental Protection Agency, and Department of Agriculture are thoroughly vetting each of these projects both separately and as a whole. Scientists and other experts are working to ensure that the projects selected represent our best opportunity to restore both our natural resources and coastal economy.

Anyone who would like to submit their own project idea for consideration may still do so via an online project submission form. Citizens will also have an opportunity to learn more about the proposed hatchery and other restoration projects at an open house and public meeting to be held on Tuesday, January 28, beginning at 6:00 PM at the Pensacola Bay Center. In the meantime, I invite you to contact Initiatives Coordinator Eric Olson at eolson@cityofpensacola.com with any questions you may have.

Im extremely excited about our proposed Hatchery and Enhancement Center and the tremendous benefits it will provide for Pensacola and the greater Gulf Coast community. I hope you share my excitement, and Ill continue to update you on this project and others as we work together to take our community upward in 2014.