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Synopsis of the phone conversation between the Sheriff and state DEP regarding the plan for Walton County


Walton County, FL (May 12, 2010) – On May 11, 2010 the Walton County Sheriff’s Office, including County engineers and legal counsel, participated in a conference call with Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Michael W. Sole and other staff in the State Emergency Operations Center regarding the State’s position on Walton County’s response plan. Highlighted below are specific issues discussed between the county and state.

1) Walton County’s boom plan is in place and is consistent with the United States Coast Guard Mobile Sector Area Contingency Plan and meets state standards.
2) Walton County’s plan to protect the coastal dune lakes will be approved by DEP after substituting sand berms for jersey walls. Silt fencing and absorption pads can be used in conjunction with sand berms. County engineers are currently making changes to the proposal.
3) DEP does not want the county to submit any type of recovery plan for cleaning up oil. DEP’s position is that BP is solely responsible and as such we should not submit plans for recovery. DEP is reviewing BP’s proposed Coastal Protection Plan and will ensure BP complies with it. Having said that, Walton County has a recovery plan making use of existing contracts with Crowder Gulf should BP fail to meet all of their obligations.
4) While the Department does not advise volunteers to actively engage in oil spill cleanup without the appropriate training, there may be other roles for volunteering with response and recovery. Visit
5) The question was asked if dispersants were going to be used by BP or DEP in state waters. Secretary Sole advised that the determination of whether or not to use dispersants in state waters is made by DEP, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commissions Wildlife Research Institute and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. At this time there are no plans to use dispersants in state waters.
6) Actions taken by Walton County to date are reasonable based on the information that was known at the time of implementation. Walton County is eligible and will seek full reimbursement from the $25 million block grant from BP given to the state.

DEP has conducted sediment and water quality testing in our area to serve as a base line comparison in the event of oil contamination. Private property owners are encouraged to document their own properties, i.e. photographs. Homeowners are encouraged to view the following press release for guidance on protecting Florida’s shoreline from oil spill impacts:
1) BP has shallow skimmers currently stationed in Pensacola and Panama City to be used in conjunction with booms.
2) DEP will not allow silt fencing along the shoreline in “inter tidal zones”.
3) DEP is requesting all persons immediately report any evidence of oil or sheen, on or offshore by calling the rapid response team at (866) 448-5816.

Walton County formulated a plan to address the oil spill in the Gulf prior to landfall when all evidence indicated oil arrival was imminent. This was to be accomplished by surrounding an area with boom and saturating it with hay. The hay would then be placed in lined containers on a barge. The purpose of this was to prevent or reduce the effects of an oil slick landfall.

Secretary Sole does not believe that Walton County will be affected by oil slicks. He advises that tar balls and oil sheen is most likely. If this is accurate, we would not attempt to use hay as an absorbent measure.

However, should we receive an oil slick locally, the Secretary advised he could not say the hay method would not be used. He further advised he would like to see a test conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of this measure as well as other alternative methods such as polypropylene and absorbent pads.

Currently, the weather is changing and moving the oil in a northwesterly track away from our beaches. Due to this, Walton County personnel have begun repositioning the hay bales and the concrete jersey walls from the area beaches and placing them in staging areas. If the threat of oil presents itself again the materials will be readily available for redeployment. The Coast Guard is also staging boom along the coast for easy disbursement. This plan is a measured response to an evolving situation. As such, Walton County will continue to modify and adapt as necessary.