NAVARRE — George Dahlgren remembers catching as many blue crabs as he wanted in the deep, clear water of the Santa Rosa Sound back in the 1950s as a boy.
“There’s so much silt now it’s unbelievable,” Dahlgren said. “We still enjoy it. But we enjoyed it more back then.”
Santa Rosa County, Gulf Breeze and the Gulf Consortium plan to soon start the septic-to-sewer conversion project along a 1.1-mile stretch of Soundside Drive between West Shore Boulevard and Oak Drive and about four blocks inland. The project is funded by more than $3 million in RESTORE Act money to convert about 160 homes.
RESTORE Act funds come from BP to help restore counties in Northwest Florida affected by its Deepwater Horizon oil spill in April 2010.
Naisy Dolar, Santa Rosa County’s Grants and RESTORE Act Program Manager, said the design phase is estimated to take two years and cost about $415,000.
“This will essentially improve water quality in the Santa Rosa Sound over the long term,” Dolar said. “It’s a drop in the bucket of the amount of septic tanks affecting the water. But we have to take it one parcel at a time.”
A total of $12 million in RESTORE Act funds have been earmarked to help improve legacy projects identified by the county to improve the marine life and water quality of the Sound.
Dolar said residents will have the option to connect to the future sewer system. Some residents in the area installed new septic tanks after Hurricane Ivan in September 2004. Others question paying monthly utility bills.
Dahlgren said he would immediately abandon his septic tank to get on the sewer system. He’s all for a better environment.
“I’d love it,” he said. “I’ve been here since ’55 and seen a lot go down hill since then. I’d like to see it cleaned up back to what it used to be.”
Marie Hershman, who has lived in the area since December 1950, also favors the sewer project.
“The problem we got now is everything is going out in the Sound, which is not healthy,” she said. “Sewers down here would be a good thing.”