At Tuesday evening's Board of County Commission meeting, Walton County adopted an ordinance restricting the hours of operation for airboats on the Choctawhatchee Bay.
The ordinance prohibits the operation of airboats in all bodies of water on Sundays, and between the hours of 6 p.m. and 8 a.m. Monday through Saturday. Exempt from these restrictions are emergency personnel needing to use an airboat for any rescue operations. However, the county owns no airboats.
Violators of the ordinance will be fined up to $500 for each occurrence.
The ordinance becomes effective immediately.
The county's legal department was also asked to look at what can be done legally about the noise the operation of airboats emit during their operation on thebay and bring back recommendations for possible adoption of further restrictions as homeowners have complained to the board that the operation is disturbing their peace.
"I hear it regularly," said Gail Smith, who lives on the bay. "The ecological impact is truly a concern and the impact it will have on water management."
Board Chairman Bill Chapman asked the County's Environmental Specialist to reach out to the state's environmental agencies about the matter.
"The state pre-empts us from doing anything concerning waterways," said Chapman. "However, some counties have come up with a noise ordinance that has been upheld by the court."
Chapman proposed asking the Sheriff's Office to look at the noise level as the county has a noise ordinance in place, but felt it was important to go ahead and vote on days and hours before the season begins.
District 3 Commissioner Melanie Nipper also suggested looking at idle speeds being required until past cones.
The county's legal and environmental departments will conduct further research and bring back recommendations to the board at a future meeting.