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Wetlands restoration helps Walton County

Published: Jun. 18, 2020 at 8:30 PM CDT
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WALTON COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG) - The wetlands are something that some people don't often think about.

But Grayton Beach and Deer Lake State Parks assistant manager Patrick Hartsfield said, whether you visit Walton County for the beaches, or live near a coastal dune lake they are important.

"It's all connected, even though we're way out here in the woods, this out here is connected all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico," Hartsfield said.

As more developments come to the area, some say storm water is having an impact on the wetlands, because of how it affects the water flow.

"There's nothing like a natural wetland that acts as a filter, and so rain falls in here, it falls in these wetlands, it's filtered through the ground, flows out through the ground, into the coastal dune lakes, into these streams, and that water has been effectively cleaned by the plants and sand and everything along the way," said Jeff Talbert, who works for Atlanta Botanical Garden, which is helping restore the wetlands.

The wetlands are also part of a barrier that helps prevent major flooding if there is a storm.

"It acts as a buffer for water as it rushes in, it can slow it down, and the water actually has a place where it can go in and spread out and rise before it starts flowing into the upland areas that are behind it," said Talbert.

Keeping the wetlands healthy requires removing plants that don't belong there and doing controlled burning.

"That slowly starts to restore these wetlands back to how they used to be, open, verbacious, grasses, pitcher plants, orchids, all these really nice things that are in there that are slowly being pushed out by this hardwood canopy that's in there right now," said Talbert.

The wetlands restoration project is being funded by a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Gulf Environmental Fund, which is money that came from the B.P. oil spill.

Copyright 2020 WJHG. All rights reserved.

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