Oil Spill Update
An update, one year later
One Year Later: The Tourism Picture
The view from Oaseas Resorts' Shores of Panama condominiums [Photo: Pat Holcombe/Oaseas Resorts]
» Escambia County: Bed tax returns for October through May are up 12% from their best year ever, 2006.
» Santa Rosa County: May bed tax numbers are up 25% from a year ago, 12.3% from 2009.
» Okaloosa County: Numbers in April and May surpassed those same months in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
» Walton County: May's bed tax gain over a year ago was 15%.
» Bay County: Bed tax revenue in May was up 4.46% from a year earlier.
"The oil spill discussion is over. Everybody knows the beaches are clean,'' says Marty McDaniel, who runs Oaseas Resorts, a resort company managing 3,000 condominium units in Bay and Walton counties. His sales are up 45% from a year ago, and bookings for June and July put occupancy over 90%.
For McDaniel and many other businesses along the coast, however, here's the rub: "The additional traffic is not going to make up for losses of last year — we figured losses at $2 million. That's a big pill to swallow.'' Oaseas is still in negotiations with BP over a final resolution of its claim.
Environmental Impact — Jury's Still Out
FSU researchers are studying heavily oiled sediment collected from the Gulf last summer. [Photo: FSU Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science]
What we need to know is whether any damage inflicted at the base of the Gulf food chain will negatively impact marine life, especially the foods we harvest.
"A major focus is to be able to develop predictive sorts of models as to how to respond the next time it happens,'' says Ellington. "For example, was it the right thing to do to use dispersants?''
Florida universities and their research teams are seeking answers, pursuing dozens of projects, funded by millions of dollars in grants, much of the money provided by BP but also coming from other national research organizations. Among initiatives:
» The Florida Institute of Oceanography, a consortium of 20 research centers including 16 Florida universities, has funded 27 projects through a $10 million grant from BP.
» The National Science Foundation awarded 20 grants to Florida researchers for oil spill work.
» BP has created a multistate Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative and will invest $500 million over 10 years, of which $50 million is already allocated; it is soliciting proposals for research.