Budget conference: Nassau County looks for deal on Piney Island resiliency

piney island
The million dollars sought is 50% of the $2M estimated cost.

Nassau County Manager Taco Pope called the resiliency and development mitigation project for Piney Island and the Amelia River the county’s top priority in securing funds from the state.

Whether the county gets that money is now in the hands of legislative budget conferees. The House placed $1 million for it in that chamber’s budget bill, but the Senate didn’t do so in its bill or in its first offer.

The area received attention for a number of reasons, including “view-shed protection, protection of cultural and archaeological resources, flood mitigation, preservation of greatest risk habitats, protection of wildlife corridors, passive ecological and cultural park use, creating a more resilient, sustainable, and storm resistant Florida, reducing vulnerabilities to sea level rise and climate change and, by extension, limiting further strain on insurance providers.”

Sen. Clay Yarborough and Rep. Dean Black, both Jacksonville Republicans, filed requests for $1 million in state funds.

The million dollars is 50% of the $2 million estimated cost. The land comprises 39 acres next to the river and State Road 200 near the Shave Bridge.

“The Piney Island project is the No. 1 acquisition project for the county, both at the committee level and for the Board of County Commissioners,” Pope said in January.

“This presents an opportunity to leverage local dollars, working with the property owner who is a willing seller and who is willing to work with us on the acquisition with private, nonprofit funding, and then the state dollars. What we’d like to be able to do, just like we talked about in the creation of the (Conservation, Land Acquisition and Management Committee), every dollar we spend locally, we want to be able to leverage that.”

Budget conference subcommittees will meet throughout the week to resolve differences in each area. When remaining issues reach an impasse, they will be “bumped” to the full budget conference committee. 

Lawmakers must reach an agreement on a final spending plan by May 2 to meet the 72-hour “cooling off” period required by the state constitution before they can vote on the budget to avoid pushing the Regular Session past its scheduled May 5 end date.

Wes Wolfe

Wes Wolfe is a reporter who's worked for newspapers across the South, winning press association awards for his work in Georgia and the Carolinas. He lives in Jacksonville and previously covered state politics, environmental issues and courts for the News-Leader in Fernandina Beach. You can reach Wes at [email protected] and @WesWolfeFP. Facebook: facebook.com/wes.wolfe

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