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PANAMA CITY BEACH — Despite rumors circulating throughout the community, local officials say the future offshore stormwater outfall was not approved to drain wetlands across the city for the St. Joe Company to develop. 

Rather, it will only combine stormwater basins near Lullwater Lake and Calypso Resort and Tower to provide a reliable drainage system that will not be at risk of clogging during severe weather. No additional water will be siphoned from any other area. 

The two basins have a combined surface area of about 1,000 acres, according to information provided by Panama City Beach officials. That includes everything south of Panama City Beach Parkway from about State 79 to Hills Road, as well as Frank Brown Park and Pier Park North. 

St. Joe, a major land developer in Bay and Walton counties, declined to comment for this article. 

"It's always a concern for me when people are misled, either unintentionally or intentionally, with bad information," PCB Councilman Michael Jarman said. "The project is probably going to be one of the most fantastic things that's ever happened here.

" ... There are certain individuals who have an agenda, and (spreading these rumors) suits their agenda," Jarman added. 

He said some of the rumors allege that in addition to the Lullwater and Calypso basins, the outfall will drain everything north of Panama City Beach Parkway up to Latitude Margaritaville Watersound, a 55-and-older community being developed by St. Joe, Minto Communities USA, and Margaritaville Holdings. 

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According to Mark Kruea, spokesman for Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, this simply is not how the structures work. 

Kruea, a leader in a community that already has installed four offshore outfalls and is working to add another, said the outfalls only redirect stormwater from a particular drainage basin — of which a city can have many — and then deposit it into the ocean.

Like the one planned for Panama City Beach, the outfalls in Myrtle Beach also use gravity to channel water instead of artificial pumps. 

Kruea said they were "very successful" at not only reducing flooding, but also improving water quality along the coast. 

"One outfall could not serve an entire city," he said. "These are designed to move rainwater around. That really is all they do — help point rainwater in the direction that we want it to go. I think they've exceeded our expectations."

Since PCB's offshore outfall will use gravity and the natural flow of the Lullwater and Calypso basins, it would be impossible to channel water from other basins north of Panama City Beach Parkway without the help of pumps, said Christian Wagley, coastal organizer for Healthy Gulf. 

That is because stormwater from those basins would have to travel uphill and across the highway to reach the Gulf, rather than following its normal paths to either Lake Powell, West Bay, or Grand Lagoon, Wagley said.   

"The forces of gravity are alive and well in Panama City Beach," he said. "There would really be no reason to try to take water miles away from a development site to some other body of water. I don't think regulators would even allow it and the cost would be insane." 

For PCB Councilman Paul Casto, there does not seem to be anything negative about the project. Along with establishing a reliable drainage system for the surrounding area, the outfall also will filter stormwater, preventing it from spilling across the beach. It also will create an artificial reef.

Casto, who worked as the city's public works director for 35 years before running for councilman, said he never would have voted in favor of the project if the rumors were true or if the outfall would harm the Gulf of Mexico. 

As someone who describes himself as a longtime local, avid fisherman, and master swimmer, Casto said it is disheartening to know some people think differently because of lies being spread throughout the city. 

While some details about the outfall still need to be worked out, construction could begin some time next year. The project is funded by a $21 million grant from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity's Rebuild Florida General Infrastructure Repair program. 

"I love Panama City Beach," Casto said. "My family swims, surfs and enjoys the (Gulf). We (as residents) have a beautiful place where we live, and I wouldn't do anything to adversely affect that. (People need) to fact check information before they make any judgment about (the outfall) because most of what is being said is not truthful."

Source : https://www.freep.com/story/news/environment/2021/10/26/panama-city-beach-florida-stormwater-outfall-safe-wetlands/8527002002/

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