DeFUNIAK SPRINGS — Walton County officials are seeking help to restore the Choctawhatchee Bay.

County commissioners voted Tuesday to apply for a grant from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to fund additional testing and restoration of the bay.

According to Melinda Gates, Walton's coastal resource liaison, the Corps of Engineers has a program from the Water Resource Development Act of 1996 that awards up to $100,000 to conduct studies.

In the past, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection had identified unnaturally high levels of nutrients, sediment and bacteria in the bay, she added.

County spokesman Louis Svehla said that just because the county has decided to apply for the grant doesn't mean it's a done deal. 

"The board as a whole is working toward — and they have been over the past several months ... trying to find ways to help the bay," Svehla said.

He wasn't sure how much money the county would seek, but said it is part of a steady effort to improve the bay's water quality.

"Ultimately, what we need to do with the Choctawhatchee Bay is determine what the problems are, and then how they can be fixed," Gates said. "It's a way of prioritizing our projects and getting the best bang for our buck at the end of the day."

Gates said county officials will soon meet with Corps of Engineers representatives to discuss the application.

"It's a nontraditional type of grant," she said. "You don't just put in an application per a particular deadline, per an 'X' amount of dollars. You solicit the Army Corps of Engineers to look into a type of project, and then they determine whether or not it meets the qualifications associated with that program."