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Salt lakes real estate

FDEP sends St. Joe Co. a warning letter regarding the work of Watersound Origins

INLET BEACH — After three inspections of the ongoing development of Watersound Origins, a massive residential project in southeast Walton County, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection issued a warning letter to St. Joe Co., the developer of the project.

The May 11 letter says inspections of Phase 7 of the project, located east of Splash Drive and south of Sawbuck Drive, revealed “possible violations” of state environmental laws and administrative regulations of the State regarding the authorization of activities involving environmental resources.

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The warning letter is “…part of an agency investigation, preliminary to agency action…” in accordance with state law.

Specifically, the letter informs St. Joe that during inspections on March 17, March 29, and May 3, FDEP personnel noted both “unauthorized activities in wetlands” and “violations of the water quality (which) have occurred as a result of dewatering activities”.

In real estate development, dewatering is the process of removing surface water and/or groundwater (water that sits underground in cracks and other spaces in the ground, the sand and rock) of a site.

In recent weeks, residents near Watersound Origins, which is located north and east of US Highway 98 near Inlet Beach, have reported silt flowing into nearby Lake Powell, which , at 800 acres, is the largest coastal dune lake in the world and also a state-designated Pristine Florida Waterway.

Coastal dune lakes, which connect to nearby saltwater bodies (in the case of Lake Powell, the Gulf of Mexico) by periodic breaches across beaches, are an extremely rare ecological phenomenon, existing only in a few places on Earth.

“what happens to the (aquatic) life forces in the lake” over time.

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Going forward, Jaffe said he and other residents around the lake, while not expecting development work to stop, expect St. Joe to be diligent. reasonable as far as the lake is concerned. In the meantime, Jaffe added that he and his neighbors will closely monitor St. Joe’s work on the site.

“We live here,” Jaffe said. “They’re just trying to make money here.”

An aerial photo shows land cleared for the St. Joe Watersound Origins development next to Lake Powell in South Walton County.  St. Joe recently received a warning letter from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and says it has taken steps to ensure the issues are resolved.

St. Joe had no one available for comment when contacted late last week, according to Mike Kerrigan, the company’s vice president of marketing and communications. The company, however, emailed a statement to the Daily News.

“Upon notification of the offsite disruptions, we began taking corrective action,” the company said in the statement. “We have discussed our concerns with the independent site contractor carrying out the work for this project and have emphasized the importance of correcting the issues immediately.”

The statement also noted that St. Joe’s representatives “…met on site with an environmental consultant, the site contractor and the FDEP to review corrective actions.”

In the days that followed, the company said the environmental consultant was performing daily stormwater and SWPP/NPDES (Federal Stormwater Pollution Control Plan/National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) inspections and water quality tests.

The company added in the statement that it “…is committed to implementing the corrective actions recommended by the FDEP as soon as possible and to continuing to monitor the performance of the independent contractors carrying out the work.”

Bu Jaffe remained skeptical in a brief interview Saturday, noting that no one from St. Joe has spoken with neighborhood residents.

“Should we trust them? Why ? asked Jaffe.

Mary Cashion

The author Mary Cashion