FORT WALTON BEACH — Okaloosa and Santa Rosa county officials learned Monday they’d received hundreds of thousands of dollars in state defense infrastructure grants.
“That’s phenomenal,” Okaloosa County Administrator Jim Curry said upon hearing the news.
Okaloosa County received two grants. One is for $200,000 to use for land acquisition in the Shoal River basin near Duke Field. The second is an $181,245 grant that will go toward improvements to the intersection of Martin Luther King and Downs Road near the back entrance to Hurlburt Field.
Santa Rosa County Commissioner Don Salter said $200,000 in state grant funds would help fund “ongoing land acquisition around Naval Air Station Whiting Field.”
“The grant will allow our county to continue to purchase land and conservation easements around the base and its many outlying fields to prevent encroachment and other incompatible land uses,” Salter said in an email.
Okaloosa County’s Shoal River Military Installation Buffering Project funding is the second $200,000 installment from the state for land preservation along the Shoal River, said Jeff Littrell, director of the county’s water and sewer department.
The first military installation buffering grant was used to purchase 353 acres running south along the Shoal River from approximately Interstate 10 to the State Road 85 bridge, he said.
The county is working with the Northwest Florida Water Management District and is studying the possibility of creating an “offline water reservoir” for surface water storage, Littrell said.
The land, which runs on either side of the river, can also be used for future wetlands mitigation and to protect the river water from pollution, he said.
Eglin Air Force Base benefits from the county owning the land because its Duke Field flight line lies just south of the area being purchased.
“It does benefit Eglin by taking the land out of the future development pool,” Littrell said.
This year’s grant will be used for more of the same type of land acquisition, Littrell said.
“We’re extremely pleased we have such great partners here,” he said. “This is one of those win, win, win situations.”
Statewide, grants totaling $1,581,245 were handed out to support Florida military installations, according to a news release from Enterprise Florida.
The grants protect a $60 billion economic impact and approximately 686,000 defense industry jobs, the release states.
“This grant program is a vital tool in maintaining Florida’s reputation as the most military friendly state in the nation,” Gov. Rick Scott was quoted as saying in the release. “Jobs for Florida families is my top priority, and these grants will improve the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of Floridians employed at our military installations.”
Contact Daily News Staff Writer Tom McLaughlin at 850-315-4435 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TomMnwfdn.