By DOTTY NIST
In response to recent opposition, county commissioners voted to have the proposed Grayton Beach State Park fishing pier removed from consideration as a Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA)-funded project.
The decision took place at the May 28 Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) meeting at the Walton County Courthouse.
On May 17, 2011, the $10+ million pier had been placed on a list of projects submitted by the county to be considered for funding through NRDA, which is a legal process aimed at compensating the public for harm to natural resources and human uses resulting from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. In August 2011, the BCC voted to include the fishing pier as one of their top five projects proposed for NRDA funding and also ranked the pier as their number one project.
Included with the pier proposal was a two-story parking deck that would be constructed above current parking.
Some residents attending a May 2011 county workshop on the NRDA project list had spoken in opposition to having the pier on the list. However, many in the community had apparently been unaware of the proposal until shortly before another public workshop was scheduled for May 7, 2013 on the topic of the NRDA project list,
At that meeting, some attendees spoke in favor of the pier project and others expressed adamant opposition. Discussion of the pier became widespread in the community, with overwhelmingly negative public reaction.
District 3 Commissioner Bill Imfeld brought up the matter at the May 28 BCC meeting. Imfeld observed that, at the time the BCC approved placing the project on the NRDA list, there had been three commissioners on the board that are not currently members of the commission. He said he had recently received 75 emails in opposition to the project.
Imfeld said he would like to determine if this was still the BCC’s number one project on the NRDA list or if the BCC would like to consider rescinding the project.
District 5 Commissioner Cindy Meadows said she had talked to a state park official who had said that the pier was not in the plans for Grayton Beach State Park and “would not happen there.”
Walton County Environmental Manager Billy McKee agreed that the pier project was not in the park’s 10-year plan and would likely not be approved to be included in the plan.
Thus far Florida has received $100 million through the NRDA process as early restoration funding, with most of that going to projects in Escambia County. At the end of April, Walton County received word of its first NRDA early restoration funding. The county is to share in $11.4 million that will fund artificial reef projects in five Northwest Florida counties and also share in $3 million for enhancement and re-creation of scallop fishing opportunities in the Panhandle.
McKee commented that it was his understanding that, after the last round of NRDA early restoration funding, approximately $30 million remained for the eight counties that could receive this funding.
The approval process for NRDA projects requires that the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Florida’s NRDA trustees, and BP all consent to projects.
Imfeld commented that he had received very little public input in support of the pier proposal.
He made a motion to have the BCC chairman send a letter to the NRDA trustess requesting the withdrawal of the pier project from the county’s NRDA list.
The motion was seconded by District 4 Commissioner Sara Comander and carried unanimously.
Moore finishes first at Texas Greatest Athlete decathlon
By REID TUCKER
Freeport track and field ace Gabe Moore won big out west over the weekend, claiming first place at the Texas Greatest Athlete decathlon.
Moore led the 14-athlete field by 170 points with a total score of 6811 after the two-day event, held June 1-2 at St. Mark’s School of Texas in Dallas. The Freeport High School junior turned in a dominant performance at the meet, finishing first in five events, second in two and third in the remaining three.
His first-place finishes included the 100-meter dash (11.27 seconds), the long jump (6.62 meters), the high jump (6-02.75 feet), 400 (50.19) and 110-meter hurdles (15.01). He came in second in the pole vault (12-01.5), almost three feet behind overall second-place finisher Travis Toliver, and in the 1500 (4:54.52), just six-hundredths of a second behind Colin O’Day. Moore’s third-spot finishes included the shot put (43-00.5), discus (119-07) and javelin throw (149-04).
Following the meet in Texas, Moore plans to try out for America’s International Association of Athletics Federation’s World Youth Championships team at a meet to be held in Edwardsville, Ill., in late June. Qualifying athletes will represent the United States at the eighth-annual World Youth Championships in Donetsk, Ukraine, in July.