Walton County applying for grants to enhance, protect environment

The Panhandle's unique environment pulls many to our area and local leaders are working to protect it.
Published: Apr. 18, 2023 at 9:20 PM CDT
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WALTON COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - The unique ecosystem in the panhandle draws people from around the world.

The area is home to many different varieties of plant and animal species, many endangered or federally protected. That’s why Walton County commissioners voted to allow the county to move forward with securing three different federal grants.

One of the grants would allow the county to add another artificial reef to be put into the gulf near Fort Panic beach access off of County Road 30A.

“That particular grant will bring in fabricated modules, creating fish habitat,” Melinda Gates, environmental coordinator, said. “By building those habitats, you’re also creating an area that the whole food chain can be active.”

Gates said artificial reefs also attract fish and other marine wildlife closer to the shore, so swimmers can go out and see the creatures, and it also is good news for recreational fishers.

But it is not just the gulf that officials want to address with these grants.

The other two grants the county will be applying for combine into one project, which would allow officials to survey and see if they can add what’s called “living shorelines” along the Choctawhatchee Bay. These shorelines would be in the Choctaw Beach area.

“When we look at living shorelines, it’s protecting our shorelines from erosion, creating a natural version of a seawall or something that’s going to protect wave action from hitting those shorelines,” Gates said. “Building living shorelines and things that can help our ecosystem to be more resilient- that also continues to build up our property values- as well as just our quality of life in general.”

If you would like to get involved in helping build up and protect our environment, there are multiple different agencies and organizations you can get involved in. Some include: