Commissioner: Okaloosa needs $70M to prepare for hurricane season

Commissioner: Okaloosa needs $70M to prepare for hurricane season

Hurricane season begins June 1 and forecasters believe a more active than normal season is in our future. Okaloosa County wants to prepare for what’s in the crystal ball with different funding methods and the use of BP oil spill money.

Forecasters say the Gulf of Mexico could see between two to four hurricanes that are a category three or higher. Commissioners want to shore up places prone to flooding before they are threatened.

Looking out on the Choctawhatchee Bay from a small park near Shalimar is like standing on a map. In the distance, one can see Destin’s Emerald Grande Hotel and the water towers of Fort Walton Beach.

Harry Domeier began fishing off at the park in 1992, but he wouldn’t be caught dead here during a storm.

“This’d be all tore up,” Domeier said, referencing the park. “It would be all over here again. The wall would be torn down most, probably. The sand would cover everything up. That road would be flooded and the water would be up in here, I guarantee it.”

Commissioners took notice of the problem areas in the north and south parts of the county. From the town of Baker – miles away from the shore, to the rusted drainage pipes under Meigs Toad, which flood easily.

They have dedicated a workshop to problem-solve the situation.

“We could do better,” Commissioner Carolyn Ketchel said when asked if the county was prepared for hurricane season. “And that is what we are looking at today. When it rains here, there are certain roads that wash out quickly.”

Commissioner Ketchel said the county needs $70 million worth of infrastructure improvements and needs a way to fund them. Her proposal is to use the $15 million in oil spill money coming to Okaloosa County and add a utility tax specifically for hurricane defense.

“They would see [an increase], but I think the good news is they could feel more comfortable knowing this is going to fix my storm water project,”…

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