Naval Air Station Whiting Field has secured more than 490 acres, as part of its double mission of conservation and mission buffering.
That brings to roughly 3,500 acres the amount of land adjacent to the base that’s been purchased. Whiting Field worked on the transaction with Santa Rosa County, Navy Region Southeast and the Naval Facilities Command Southeast.
Total cost was $1.2 million. The money came from the Navy Readiness Environmental Protection Integration, and a grant from the Santa Rosa County Defense Infrastructure.
Development is prohibited on much of the property, some of which is used as “accident potential zones” – tracts which are kept vacant in case of a plane crash. Acquisitions began about a dozen years ago, following a joint land use study that led to the inception of Whiting Field’s Encroachment Prevention Plan.
Besides the stated missions of conservation and buffering, Commissioner Don Salter says there is a third that’s just as real – insurance against the next round of base realignment and closure -- BRAC -- which could be conducted next year and in 2017.
In addition the newly-secured 490 acres, Whiting Field has submitted a bid for the 2014 REPI Challenge – the Department of Defense’s Readiness and Environment Protection Integration Program. If Whiting Field is selected as the winner, it would receive $5 million in DOD funding, which the state of Florida has proposed to match 100 percent. That funding could purchase up to 10,000 acres north of the base.
The winner is expected to be announced around the first of June. Eglin Air Force Base and Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington were the 2013 REPI Challenge award winners.