Destin, Fla. - A state of emergency has been declared in Okaloosa County.
Dredgers have been working to stabilize Norriego Point in Destin's harbor. When that work was finished some county commissioners were hoping the dredgers would address concerns around the East Pass channel.
Unfortunately, that is not-going to happen.
"The project is currently on schedule to be completed with the shoreline stabilization and restoration portion of the project by May the 30th," said Pearce Barrett, Department of Environmental Protection, Projects Manager.
Now that the dredging portion of the stabilization project is complete, phase two begins which entails adding vegetation to the new dune structures.
"We've just received bids on the project and we will be awarding the project, I assume this week," said Barrett.
With one project finishing and workers moving to the next phase, another problem has surfaced and Okaloosa County Commissioners say, it needs to be addressed as an emergency.
"There's about six feet on the bar right now. Some of the boats draw that much water and so, if there is any sea running, at all you can see where they could hit bottom cause damage," explained Kelly Windes, Okaloosa Co. Commissioner, District 5
The East Pass is the only access to the gulf within about 90 miles encompassing Pensacola to Panama City. It's used heavily by boaters in three counties.
Earlier this month during a visit to Destin, Congressman Matt Gaetz said this issue could reap a billion dollar havoc.
"It's a big commerce and big drive financially, so we've got to keep it maintained and fixed. We have been a little deficient in recent years on getting our share of the dredging so, it's our turn," said Windes.
During the last Okaloosa County Commission meeting, Commissioners directed staff to open an emergency request for bids from dredging companies, at this point they a few options to consider.
"The timing is important. So, the options are going to be do we try to do it during the 100 days of summer or immediately after that during labor day," shared Windes.
Okaloosa Co. Commissioners say they are hoping to direct staff during their meeting on Tuesday, to proceed with one of the dredging bids and get the project underway immediately.
The Okaloosa County Board of Commissioners will meet at 8:30 A.M. in Shalimar. When looking at the bids, Commissioners say the main focus will be the timeliness, costs and experience.
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