This is what we’ve all been waiting for, this is what many have claimed will be the beginning of the end of all their problems. The final federal permit needed for the Panama City Airport Relocation, the 404 Permit, was received as announced today by the Bay County International Airport and Industrial District (Airport Authority).
“In issuing the Section 404 permit, the USACE concurred with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s (FDEP) analysis. In its analysis, FDEP cited a number of net ecosystem benefits that will result from the project, including:
- The conservation and permanent protection of significant contiguous portions of the West Bay region, including bay shoreline, wetlands, streams, uplands and the overall watershed;
- A wetlands function lift significantly in excess of that needed to compensate for functional losses (impacts);
- A mitigation plan that significantly exceeds both state and federal requirements for all possible current and future impacts; and
- An effort to restore a large contiguous tract of uplands and wetlands to approximate historical conditions more suitable for dependent species native to the area. . .
The Airport Authority is nearing completion of a ten-year process to relocate the Panama City – Bay County airport. In the late 1980s, the Airport Authority began an effort to address significant deficiencies at the existing airport, including non-standard runway safety areas. When local environmentalists and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection objected to extending the existing runway system into Goose Bayou, a particularly environmentally sensitive part of St. Andrews Bay, the Airport Authority began considering relocating the airport.
After completion of a feasibility study in 2000 and a site selection study in 2001, the Airport Authority identified a new site for the airport in northwestern Bay County (West Bay) on land owned by The St. Joe Company.
Following the FAA’s selection of the site, the Airport Authority partnered with the State of Florida, Bay County and St. Joe in an innovative planning process authorized by Florida law known as “optional sector planning.” The process included numerous public meetings, data gathering, analysis and visioning for the future. The plan was approved by Bay County and the State of Florida in 2002 and detailed specific area plans were also approved in 2003.
The sector plan incorporates approximately 78,000 acres and of particular significance is that the boundary of the plan includes an entire bay system (West Bay) thereby allowing unprecedented planning to protect an entire watershed. The purpose of the plan was to ensure that appropriate land uses were placed near the airport and that appropriate environmental protection measures were built into the plan. The plan is conceptual and guides future development and conservation. . .”
Read the entire press release here.