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Destin dredging project begins Saturday

DESTIN   --   It's taken a state of emergency and a special grant of bed tax dollars....
But a long-awaited dredging project begins tomorrow in Destin.
The project will remove sand that's built up in the channel leading to Destin harbor.

Laura Hussey "When the dredge fires up Saturday morning, it's going to be cleaning out an area called the Old Pass Lagoon Channel roughly where that biggest boat is coming in, parallel to the Destin Bridge."
   
For months, shallow water in the channel has challenged captains to navigate a narrow path between running aground and running into the bridge.

When winter tides made the problem worse, some boats had to cancel trips.
Capt. Buddy Godwin/Indian Outlaw "This shoal has built up so bad that you're going to tear your running gear out from under the boat."
   
The Corps of Engineers is responsible for dredging the channel, but they say they don't have the money.

Capt. Eller "Unfortunately we're not on the priority list like Panama City or Pensacola as a deepwater part. We're just kind of forgotten."
   
The city of Destin declared a state of emergency and found twenty thousand dollars for the project; the county granted 180 thousand dollars from bed taxes.

Capt. Eller "They've got a real dredge, it's an eight-inch walking spud suction dredge and that's what we need in that current out there, you can't use a toy dredge."

Sand removed from the channel will be placed on Norriego Point.
People can still use that beach during the project, but some foot traffic will be restricted.
   
It's a fix for now, but Captain George Eller says keeping the channel clear should be a priority.
"There's a Coast Guard station over there that has to get out. There's the crash boats from Eglin and Hurlburt that have to get out. And the 350 million dollars per annum that this fleet puts into the economy."

Laura Hussey "The dredge project is expected to be complete around May 24."