Public Voices Concerns Over New Waterway Security Proposal

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PANAMA CITY - Tyndall Air Force Base officials met with members of the public Thursday night to talk about a Waterway Security Proposal.

The first one the Air Force considered this summer drew a lot of criticism.

More than 100 people turned out at Gulf Coast State College the town hall meeting to discuss the different circumstance that could lead to restricting waterways.

"Today is about informing the public about what is actually in the proposal. We are clearing up some misconceptions and making sure everyone understands the intent and scope of the proposal," Major Anthony McCarthy, 325th Security Forces Squad.

Tyndall Air Force Base officials insist they would only close or restrict waterways adjacent to the base, in the event of a terrorist attack or some other instance that would require heightened security.

Otherwise day-to-day operations will not change.

However, officials would not provide details on what would constitute such a threat or how long it would stay in place.

The proposal creates a 500 foot zone in the waterways surrounding Tyndall's property, including popular boating destinations like Shell Island, Crooked Island, and Redfish Point.

"Having a plan in place that should a threat arrive. Again there is no threat, but you know that in the worst case scenario we are prepared for something like that," he said.

If a boater in is the designated zone, Air Force Patrols would ask them to leave.

If they refused, the boater could be cited for trespassing.

Some don't believe the plan is enforceable.

"To me that means they are going to need hundreds of patrol boats to cover that 129 miles of shoreline," said Stephanie Somerset, Friends of Shell Island.

Others say the proposal will create more problems than answers.

"What does seem practical is for them to put up perimeter fencing around where they do have assets," Somerset said.

Tyndall officials plan to review the draft again, then hold public meeting.

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