By DOTTY NIST
Brad Pickel recently had big news to share on plans for Walton County’s second large-scale beach nourishment project.
On March 13, the beach management consultant for the South Walton Tourist Development Council (TDC) provided a morning update to the tourism council, and later on he updated the Walton County Board of County Commissioners at their meeting in the Walton Courthouse Annex.
Pickel and the TDC have been working since 2002 to pursue federal funding for the project. These efforts were emphasized by a focus on the part of the state beginning in 2009, on beach projects determined to be in the national interest, in order to leverage federal funding for these projects.
“It is now a federal project,” Pickel announced on March 13 in reference to the local initiative.
Pickel also said that all beachfront contained in the four areas proposed for inclusion in the large-scale restoration project along CR-30A have now been deemed critically eroded. This will provide for longer stretches of beach to be nourished, adding to the durability of the project. The four areas add up to more than 12 miles.
Pickel explained that the areas included in the project would cover all developed infrastructure along CR-30A. The four areas for the newly-deemed Federal Shore Protection Project would include the following: Stallworth Lake though Blue Mountain Beach; Gulf Trace through western Grayton Beach; WaterColor through Eastern Lake; and Seacrest through Inlet Beach. State park property, along with the WaterSound area, will be excluded due to no storm-vulnerable infrastructure being in place in those areas.
Consultations with federal and state fish and wildlife officials on the project have begun, Pickel stated.
Project plans call for one initial restoration and two follow-up restorations roughly every 10 years. The cost of the initial project is currently estimated at $50 to 55 million.
Pickel said federal funds have already been secured to cover not only the feasibility study for the work but also the preliminary engineering design—and that the account for the portion of the bed tax collected by the TDC for beach nourishment is sufficient to cover the matching amount required.
He was optimistic that the project would be ready to go in a 2015 time frame.
Pickel also reported Walton County’s initial large-scale beach nourishment project, completed in 2007, to have been a “total success.” He said the work has exceeded expectations, with over 90 percent of the sand volume added through the project still remaining in place. That project had covered approximately five miles of beachfront in western Walton County.