DESTIN – A Jacksonville-based engineering firm will meet with state officials while studying whether the Destin Harbor area could become a port and/or serve as a port and waterways district, the City Council unanimously agreed Tuesday.

The city plans to pay Taylor Engineering Inc. up to $20,500 for the study, which will examine the best ways to manage the harbor and other city waterways, including Destin’s bayous.

“What we would like to do is get the very preliminary assessment from Taylor Engineering to make sure there is nothing prohibiting the city from becoming a port, or designating a port/waterways district,” City Manager Carisse LeJeune told the council.

Destin receiving such a designation could help the city better manage the public use of the city's waterways and beaches, according to city information. Depending on Taylor Engineering’s findings, Destin officials later could seek a request for proposals from firms interested in helping the city create a port and/or a port and waterways district. 

Replying to a question from Councilman Tuffy Dixon, LeJeune said city officials “really don’t have a time frame at this point” for the study by Taylor Engineering. Matt Trammell, a coastal engineer with the firm, took note of Dixon’s request to have the study completed before this summer’s tourist season begins.

“We’re going to start immediately,” Trammell said.

During the study, Taylor Engineering will meet with state legislators and officials from the Florida Department of Transportation, Florida Ports Council and St. Augustine Port, Waterway and Beach District. Trammell said the talks will include discussion of Destin’s huge number of commercial boating activities.

“Once we have these meetings, we can have follow-up discussion with city staff and have a report 30 days from then,” Trammell said. “But we don’t know when that will be ready.”

In response to questions from Councilman Rodney Braden, LeJeune said the report on the study will give Destin officials a better idea of the cost, steps and time frames to implement a port and/or a port/waterways district should the city go in that direction.

“We’ll provide that road map for the next step,” Trammell said.