City plans to dredge harbor mouth, navigation channel before summer season

Matt Algarin
With boats scraping their props in the navigation channel, city leaders are moving quickly to bring a dredge to Destin ahead of the summer season.

City leaders are working quickly to clear out the choked up mouth of the harbor and navigation channel.

"We are hoping to finish the work just before the summer season," Public Services Steve Schmidt wrote in an email.

During Monday night's City Council meeting, city leaders unanimously agreed to enter into an interlocal agreement with Okaloosa County for the emergency dredge project.

The city had already declared an "emergency" during its March 18 meeting and has secured up to $180,000 in funding from the Okaloosa County Board of County Commissioners via bed tax dollars from the Okaloosa County Tourist Development Council. As part of the project, the city will contribute $20,000.

For the past few months, local boat captains have told city leaders in Destin that the navigation channel and mouth of the harbor have been rapidly closing in, causing them to drag their props along the sandy bottom.

Speaking to county commissioners March 19, Mayor Sam Seevers said the city's fishing fleet contributed more than $370 million to the local economy, based on a study in 2000.

"If they 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," she said.

With the interlocal agreement approved, the next step is for the city to put the project out for bid. If all goes according to plan, work is expected to begin by the first or second week of May.