South Walton coastal dune lakes swell from recent rain, Western manually opened

August 2, 2012

Western Lake outfall was manually opened on Aug. 1. Photo courtesy Laura Talbert

Strong outflow to Gulf prompts water rescues

With several coastal dune lakes in South Walton swelled from recent rains, Walton County Public Works Department has been keeping a close eye on lake water levels. On Aug. 1, Western Lake was manually opened to relieve it from potentially flooding low lying homes along the lake’s shoreline.

The County holds Department of Environmental Protection permits which allows them to control the water flow on several lakes if needed. On July 31, Western Lake had swelled beyond the trigger point.

Grayton Beach State Park staff and Walton County Public Works monitor water levels on Western Lake by this gauge located on the lake within the park. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

“It had reached 4.2 ft. on the July 31st,” said Patrick Hartsfield, park service specialist at Grayton Beach State Park.

Walton County’s Environmental Manager Billy McKee and crew decided it was time to open the lake to relieve the threat of water flooding a few homes close to the water’s edge.

“We have been monitoring all of the lakes especially Western and Eastern Lake,” said McKee.

“Natural opening is always best,” McKee continued. “However with the berm along the beach being so high at Western, we decided to take action.”

On Aug. 1, the County bulldozed the berm to relieve the high water.

The fast flow of lake water out to the Gulf caused some scary situations for vacationers, prompting a few rescues. Several visitors couldn’t resist floating out to the Gulf in the rushing outflow.

Local waterman Justin Nichols pulled several people out of the Gulf, along with the help of 10-year-old Trip Martin who just finished the South Walton Fire District Junior Lifeguard program.

“It didn’t matter what you said to folks, they still wanted to get into the outflow,” Nichols said.

Eastern Lake opened on its own earlier this week.

To learn more about our coastal dune lakes, click here.