Walton Beach Renourishment

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The last two hurricane seasons have taken their toll on the beaches of south Walton.

Hurricanes Ivan and Dennis severely damaged nearly 15 miles of the shoreline, much of it along County Road 30-A, which includes some of the most exclusive communities in the area, Seaside, Watercolors, Rosemary, Grayton Dune Allen, and Seagrove.

The Walton County Tourist Development Council wants to repair that coastline at a cost somewhere between$50 and $60 million.

"Right now we're finishing up some preliminary work so we can get to the engineering, design and permitting phase, that's the wild card because it requires permitting form both state and federal agencies, permitting can take 18 months to two years, so we're actually looking at probably a 2008, 2009 time frame."

These plans come as the TDC is trying to complete another beach renourishment project on the west end of the county, a project that has been plagued by lawsuits and shutdowns after dredging equipment killed at least three endangered sea turtles.

The Army Corps of Engineers won't allow work to begin again until October 1, the start of a new fiscal year. TDC officials would only say both of these projects are crucial to the beaches future.

"We need to restore these beaches so that they offer that upland storm protection in the face of the ongoing hurricane season we'll be seeing in the next few years."

But not only is coastal housing at risk, the beach itself is in danger.

The sand may not seem very special, but it's extremely important. The sea walls and other structures can save the housing and people from the dangerous effects of hurricanes, but this sand is the only thing that can save the beaches from erosion.

"On a recreational beach you want to keep the sand there. Structures will protect upland properties, but the beach itself is only going to be protected by placing more sand on it."

The TDC's bed tax collections will pay for half of the renourishment project, with the rest coming from state sources.