Talks of reopening the East Pass in Bay County recently resurfaced, in light of the August Primary. Candidates for the county commission brought it up in a recent debate, but there seems to be a hold up.
Reopening the pass has been on the county's project list and is under consideration for funding, but without approval from the state, there's no moving forward.
"The primary concern at this point is regulatory." Assistant County Manager, Bob Mayka says the county continues to eye the possibility of reopening the east pass, but there's many obstacles to overcome.
"Anytime that we begin to have conversations about the necessity to armor the East Pass, we begin to get into a lot of regulatory restrictions." Mayka says.
Mayka says the pass needs an armor that can keep it open. The county spent millions of dollars in 2001 to reopen the pass, but by 2003 it closed naturally. In a recent debate candidates vying for two Bay County Commission seats said they're open to the idea, but each want to see it done right.
"We take it step by step. First thing, went to get permission to do it and then we're doing it smart." District 3 candidate, Bill Dozier says.
"Until we have a plan, and a way to finance it and without raising your taxes." District 3 candidate, Charles Bodiford says.
"The BP fines that may be levied that may bring between 75 and 80 million dollars into this county, there's the funding." District 5 candidate, Jim Lawson says.
"Until the corps agrees to harden it, it's wasting money. I don't care if it's restore act money or whatever money it is, it's money that can be spent in Bay County to put people to work." District 5 candidate, Mike Thomas says.
For advocates like Charlie Yautz, reopening pass is a necessity. "Since it's been closed off, you can see that it's starting to sour, the sea grass is starting to sour."
Mayka says staff will continue to cut through the red tape, but until there is some type of assurance from the agencies involved, the conversation about funding won't take place.
In June, Commissioner Bill Nelson held a public workshop to discuss the opening of the East Pass.