During Tuesday's Okaloosa County Board of County Commissioners meeting, Destin Mayor Sam Seevers told county leaders that there is a "very dangerous situation" in Destin's harbor and navigation channel.
"It's shoaling in that area and making it very difficult to navigate in and out of the harbor," she said. "If they (charter fishing fleet) cannot get out of that harbor — and right now it's very difficult for some of the larger boats to get out — that will strap our economy."
As a preemptive strike, city leaders in Destin declared an "emergency" during their Monday night City Council meeting, so the city could move forward and request funding for an emergency dredge project from the county. The request for no more than $180,000 would be funded by the Okaloosa County Tourist Development Council through bed tax dollars.
By declaring an emergency, the city will be able to navigate the permitting process more quickly.
Although the TDC would contribute a majority of the money, the city of Destin would use $20,000 of its own funds to assist in the project, which would dredge roughly 12,000-cubic yards of sand, Seevers said. She told commissioners that over the past four years, the city has spent $241,000 on "consistent dredging."
"It's been really, really hard on us," she said. "This area is not even in Destin's jurisdiction, but we've got to step up to the plate and make this happen."
Over the past few months, multiple boat captains in Destin have spoken to city leaders about the issue, sharing stories of their props scraping the sand below and their boats being stuck in the navigation channel near the Marler Bridge.
Based on a study conducted in 2000, Seevers told commissioners that the fishing fleet in Destin contributed more than $370 million to the local economy, adding that the figure only included the fishing boats, not the other businesses along the harbor.
County Commissioner Wayne Harris told his colleagues that dredging the harbor was of great importance to Okaloosa County.
"This is not just a Destin issue," he said. "It's a whole county issue."
Okaloosa Island resident and beach restoration opponent David Sherry also weighed in on the proposed project.
"I'm not here to oppose the harbor dredge or even your funding of it," he told county commissioners. "I am here to ask you and the city to plan ahead and honor those commitments that were made before."
"I just don't want the sense of urgency to armor Norriego Point to go away," he added.
The stabilization of Norriego Point is the ultimate solution to the continual dredging, Seevers said. The city is currently in the process of permitting the stabilization project, which is expected to cost more than $8 million.
"The solution to all of this is to get Norriego Point fixed," Seevers said. "We are not going to quit trying to get Norriego Point stabilized once and for all."
When it came to whether or not county commissioners were going to agree to lend a financial hand to the city of Destin, they did so with overwhelming support, and a unanimous vote. They also unanimously agreed to write a letter of support for emergency permitting in the East Pass so the city can proceed with efforts to dredge the pass.
"Thank you so much for what you are doing for all of us in this community," Seevers told commissioners after the vote.