By LEAH STRATMANN
One of the long-term goals of the Coastal Dune Lake Advisory Board has been to have state and county officials recognize that each coastal dune lake is different, therefore writing land code based on a single definition could adversely affect the lakes. When the Evaluation and Appraisal Report (EAR) sent by the county to the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) was returned with recommendations, one of the items they focused on was the use of the term historical outfall area. They said, “This terminology is not commonly used and is not defined in the plan, and therefore this terminology lacks predictability.” The DCA wanted a defined sweep area for the outfalls.
In the county’s response they said, “Walton County Land Development Code now enforced a 300-foot zone for Coastal Dune Lakes and a 50-foot buffer around each of the dune lakes outfall areas. The historic outfall area is different for each coastal dune lake in Walton County, which is unique to this hemisphere. Accordingly, the sweep distance for each outfall area can only be defined from an aerial. Thus, the reference to historical outfall areas needs to be enforced by the county on a site-specific basis per coastal dune lake, which is predictable based upon the particular dune lake involved. The county does not want to risk adversely impacting these lakes by incorporating a utilitarian definition which fails to capture the uniqueness of each lake.”
In the ongoing goal of having the county bestow special designation to the lakes, environmental planner Billy McKee will take a proposal to the Board of County Commissioners (BCC) at the next meeting.
“I think we’ll get support from the BCC,” said chairman Marsha Anderson. “I have appointments with commissioners and I think we will be successful.”
McKee also told the board that new development on the lakes restricts the number of docks that can be constructed. The board wants to limit the size of docks to align with Outstanding Florida Waters (OAF) guidelines, which call for substantially shorter dock lengths than existing ordinances.
It was noted that $5,000 has been given to the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance (CBA) for signage from the Florida Lake Management Society (FLMS). Anderson said the board will ask the South Walton Tourist Development Council (TDC) to match the funds so more signs can be purchased. These will be educational signs along Timpoochee Trail on the pedestrian crossovers at the edge of footbridges. The unique nature of the lakes and the eco-system supported by them will be part of the educational information on the signs. The plan is to have as many signs made as they can afford.
The CDLAB website has been updated. Entry to the information is through the county’s website. There is space for virtually as much information as the board would like to place there. It was suggested that as many photos as possible be posted to show not only the lakes, but also the wildlife and plant life supported by the lakes.
Anderson asked all board members to visit the site and make suggestions about information to provide to it. She would like a link to the film made about the lakes. She said all lake access points have been added to the site.
“I don’t think people realize how much more there is to the lakes than the water and if they can see that on the website, it will be valuable in getting people aware of the jewels they have here,” noted Richard Bryan.
New board member George Bowen said he thought pictures of people doing things on the lakes can be a source of education as well.
Sarah Kalinoski of the CBA unveiled a draft of a tri-fold brochure for homeowners along the lake. The pamphlet clearly outlines the restrictions, rules and definition of the protection zone and the outfalls. The brochure informs owners of the 50-foot buffer zone where neither mowing nor clearing is allowed. The CBA has agreed to print 500 copies of the brochure for distribution to homeowner associations.
Leah Stratmann may be reached via email@example.com