BROOKSVILLE, Fla. -- As a result of the Deepwater Horizon disaster 10 years ago, the RESTORE Act was created to bring more marine life as well as tourism to the Gulf of Mexico.

  • Hernando County just starting to get some funds from RESTORES Act
  • Funds to go to tourism, marine life to states affected by Deepwater Horizon
  • County hopes to use money to create larger artificial reefs farther offshore

Hernando County Aquatic Services Manager Keith Kolasa says the county is just starting to receive some of the RESTORE Act money to use on the coast.

“It’s been a long time coming, but we’re looking forward to a lot of great projects here in Hernando,” Kolasa said.

The county has already been allocated a total of $18 million to $19 million in RESTORE funding, but Kolasa said there was a lot of work the county needed to do before the grants could be received.

“Part of the grant program is they want to know that we can do these projects,” Kolasa said.

He's talking about projects like the reef balls that were dropped in the Gulf a little over two years ago, and the so-called "ghost ship" that was sunk last year -- both which have now become successful marine habitats.

Those projects were funded using local money as well as donations.

"The reefs attract fish almost instantaneously. You’ll see a grouper and bait fish, they’re on the reef within a couple of weeks,” Kolasa said.

With the RESTORE money, Kolasa said not only is the county planning more projects like the ghost ship and reef ball, but it hopes to expand them to a much larger scale, such as including sinking a large ship further offshore. 

“It will bring back divers that are looking for unique places to do rec diving, and it will also hold a lot more different types of fish than some of the concrete rubble reefs,” Kolasa explained.

“Probably one of the most rewarding projects I’ve ever worked on in my career is to watch these reefs blossom into really healthy environments,” he added.

Kolasa said the county will also use some RESTORE funding to improve boat ramps providing access to the Gulf.