This would seem humorous, typical lame performance by Walton County road department, except for the fact this is diverting tons of traffic onto Thompson Road and the intersection of 98 and Thompson has become brutal and treacherous. This morning, in the fog, it was one of the most scary intersections I have ever had to face.
By TOM McLAUGHLIN / Daily News
Published: Monday, April 7, 2014 at 17:58 PM.
The final phase of restoring Oyster Lake as a viable coastal dune lake is taking longer than it was supposed to.
Construction crews had been given until Monday to finish a concrete span bridge on County Road 30A that will replace culverts and allow the Oyster Lake outfall to flow freely to the Gulf of Mexico.
Jacquee Markel could see from the front window of her Sugar Beach Drive home that wasn’t going to happen.
“Nobody’s there,” she said. “It’s rained here, and I can see nobody’s there.”
The Walton County public works crews handling the bridge labor confirmed Monday they were still approximately three weeks away from completing the bridge, said county spokesman Louis Svehla.
That means three more weeks of detouring drivers on 30A, a popular beach access road, around the lake. Svehla said the detour hasn’t proven to be too much of an inconvenience and there have been no complaints registered from locals and spring-time vacationers.
When the bridge is completed, the co-mingling of fresh lake water and salt water, blocked for years at Walton County’s most development-impacted dune lake, will occur again, and it is hoped Oyster Lake can return to a healthy state.
The Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance, which has spearheaded the multi-faceted process of reviving Oyster lake, plans to assess the lake once the bridge is opened, said Sarah Schindele, a grant coordinator for the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance.
“We will pick back up with post restoration monitoring, doing a plant survey, monitoring water quality and sediments,” Schindele said.
Markel has been actively monitoring the progress of the Oyster Lake Bridge project which, she said, was begun Nov. 18 with a four-month deadline and 30 days to complete a punch list.
Cliff Knauer, an engineer with Preble-Rish, the company that designed the bridge, did not return a phone call or email Monday to discuss reasons for delays.
Schindele was hopeful drivers would continue to be patient with the public works crews. More of these type bridges are being contemplated for some of Walton County’s other 15 rare dune lakes, and the CBA doesn’t want anything to disrupt plans to improve the coastal environment.
“I hope everybody will realize the long-term good is worth the short-term headache,” she said.
I hope Oyster Lake makes a comeback. I was talking to an old timer born and raised in Santa Rosa Beach (he is about 90 years old now), and he recalls going down to Oyster Lake and the beach by the outfall for outings. There used to be a trail through the woods from the houses near the bay to the beach there and they would travel in mule drawn wagons (the original SOWAL LSV). Said he used to gig flounder in Oyster Lake. One can only hope we get back to that state of restoration!