Could a saltwater fish hatchery and fishing pier be in the future for Walton County?

August 4, 2011

Potential location for salt water fish hatchery at Live Oak Point near Hogtown Bayou.

A look at a few NRDA project-funding requests

As a part of a multi-state effort to draw funding from the Natural Resources Damage Assessment (NRDA) process, Walton County is looking at submitting funding for 23 restoration projects. The Walton County Board of County Commissioners has requested 13, with the remaining 10 from outside agencies including Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Northwest Florida Water Management District.

The NRDA process guides the distribution of restoration funds that will be distributed from BP Oil to areas along the Gulf Coast affected by the 2010 oil spill. BP has agreed to provide $1 billion for restoration; $100 million to each state initially, and then an additional $500 million spread among those states later in the process.

A view of Live Oak Point area from Hogtown Bayou. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

At the BCC meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 9, the Walton County commissioners will prioritize the projects they feel are most viable for the initial funding. Some of the projects include a fishing pier at Grayton Beach State Park, beach restoration and coastal dune lake restoration, an artificial reef and a fish hatchery. At this time all of the projects are in the conceptual stage. Click here for the full NRDA Project List for Walton County.

On Aug. 3, Walton County Commissioner Cecilia Jones met with Brett Boston, Executive Director of the Wildlife Foundation of Florida, the non-profit arm of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). Along with members of the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance and Northwest Florida Water Management District, the group explored the possibilities of using NRDA funding to establish a fish hatchery along the Choctawhatchee Bay at the Live Oak Point peninsula near Hogtown Bayou.

A conceptual drawing of fishing pier at Grayton Beach State Park. The pier is one of the items on NRDA list of potential projects. Illustration courtesy Preble Rish

Boston spoke on the benefits of a hatchery for the area’s ecosystems. If the funding is approved, a feasibility study will be done by the Florida Marine Fisheries Enhancement Initiative to determine the most viable species of fish for the hatchery. Some of the species considered may be redfish, sea trout, flounder and cobia. Many variables come into play when choosing, such as water conditions and viability of success for that specie in our area.

Also discussed at the meeting was the possibility of establishing an aquatic nursery at the same location as the hatchery. Plant propagation would be a vital component in restoring estuaries.

The final decision on funding of projects will be made by the NRDA Trustee Council, which is comprised of a representative from each affected Gulf State, and two representatives from federal agencies, NOAA and the Department of Interior.