After a decades long battle with shifting sands and storm erosion, funding for the long-term fix for Norriego Point has been approved.
"It's a done deal," Mayor Sam Seevers told The Log minutes after the announcement was made in Panama City. "This funding will enable us to do all aspects of this project — this is the whole enchilada."
Seevers, along with Lindy Chabot and Steve Schmidt from the city of Destin were at the Panama City Marina as Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vinyard Jr. announced the city would receive $10.2 million in funding through the Natural Resources Damage Assessment program, created in the wake of the 2010 BP oil spill.
To see a time-lapse video of Norriego Point's erosion over the years, CLICK HERE.
Based on the project application, city leaders aim to protect, stabilize and re-establish the recreational opportunities along the continually eroding spit of land that marks the entrance into Destin harbor. In addition to stabilizing the point with a rock-heavy design, the city will also build several erosion control structures to dissipate wave energy; restore the point to pre Hurricane Opal size (adding roughly 8 acres of land mass); two new embayments for additional swimming; plus a picnic area with pavilions and restrooms, showers, drinking fountains, educational signage, a multi-use trail and bike racks.
While she was admittedly "giddy like a school girl," Seevers told The Log that she didn't cry when the announcement was made, despite an overwhelming rush of emotion.
"Our city staff worked really hard to make this happen," she said. "There were people who said this project wasn't a good fit, and at one point the project was removed from the list, but we fought to get it put back on there."
For local developer Peter Bos, who has been a proponent of restoring the point for years, Friday's announcement was epic.
"This is single-handedly the most important thing to happen for Okaloosa County," he said. "It's everything we've wanted — this is really big and really important for the city of Destin."
"Sam Seevers has pioneered this, along with city staff," he added. "To me, it's Norriego Point, slash Sam Seevers park."
With BP basically footing the bill for the project, Seevers said the city can focus on other projects around Destin.
Also, stabilizing the point should limit the frequency at which the city has to dredge the mouth of Destin harbor, which has increased over the years due to eroding sands into the mouth of the harbor.
Former City Manager Greg Kisela, who is now the city manager in Port Orange, said stabilizing Norriego Point was always in the forefront of his mind during his time in Destin.
"I know how much Norriego Point means to Destin," he said. "The point has ebbed and flowed anywhere between 12-20 acres over the years."
Kisela and the city first submitted an application for funding in November of 2010, due to the impacts from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Given Friday's announcement, Seevers told The Log that there are still some items to work through before the city will receive its “chunk of change.”
Ideally, Seevers said the plan is to have the funding sources finalized by the fall of 2014, and to have the work completed by the summer of 2015.
Councilman Jim Bagby said Destin now has a "monumental" opportunity.
"It's an opportunity to write the next chapter in Destin's history," he said. "I hope this sets up our children and our children's children to be able to enjoy the same things that we enjoyed."
Almost too excited to speak, Seevers said she couldn't believe this day had finally come to fruition.
"This is a game changer for Destin and for the face of the harbor," she said. "We are so thankful."