Public Encouraged to Offer Feedback on Tyndall's Waterway Security Proposal

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PANAMA CITY-- Living and playing outside in the water is woven into the fabric that makes up Bay County.

With the new Waterway Security Proposal from Tyndall Air Force Base, locals are concerned that life on the water is about to change.

"We would have the ability and the authority for activation of a particular restricted area so we could make sure that Tyndall's coastline and Air Force assets are properly secured. This really goes in line with a lot of the threats after 9/11," 325th Security Forces Squadron Commander Jonathan Bell said.

The security proposal breaks down the 129 miles of unprotected coastline surrounding the base into 23 sections, but base officials say the coastline won't be shut off to the public 24/7.

"In the event of a specific credible threat, we don't necessarily intend to activate all 23 areas, it could be one or two at a time," Bell said.

Still, some locals remain concerned.

"Somebody in the future could abuse it because it gives the base commander wide latitude to shut off areas. It could affect the local economy, it could affect tourism and it could affect recreational users," Friends of Shell Island Executive Director Stephanie Somerset said.

Opponents have suggested alternate solutions.

"They could use strategic fencing when they have important military assets, use land-base patrols, put permanent restrictions where they do have assets close to the water, like where the base housing is," Somerset said.

Base officials say that solution is too costly. Either way, now is the time to make your voice heard, while comment period on the security proposal is open.

"We would really like for the public to weigh in on the issue to make sure their voices are heard, because we understand that sharing information with the public really ensures our success here at Tyndall," Bell said.

The comment period to voice your concerns ends on October 14th.