ESCAMBIA COUNTY, Fla. (WKRG) — The public’s input is needed on the Bayou Chico Contaminated Sediment Remediation Project, which will address stormwater and sanitary concerns.

According to a release sent out by the county, the intent of the meeting is to share results of data collected to date, outline the proposed next steps and solicit input on proposed process. Data collected for the project has been ongoing since summer 2021, by the Escambia County Natural Resource Management Department, Aecom Engineering Pvt.LTd. and the University of West Florida.

Sediment quantity and quality data are now available and planning for the next phase of data collection is underway. According to the release, the project will use the data collected to develop a series of remedial strategies that will be considered for future implementation. Upon selection of the remedial strategy, the project will be designed and permitted for implementation.

The project builds on investments made since the 90s by numerous partners and stakeholders, including Escambia County, the City of Pensacola and Emerald Coast Utilities Authority. Once implemented, the remediation project is intended to improve sediment and water quality, restore benthic invertebrate habitat and enhance the economic and recreational opportunities across the bayou.

Bayou Chico is located within the Pensacola Bay watershed in south central Escambia County. The bayou has a surface water area of approximately 235 acres with a surrounding drainage basin of more than 6,600 acres. The eastern half of the bayou and associated contributing basin is located generally within the City of Pensacola with the remaining western bayou and associated contributing basin located outside city limits in unincorporated Escambia County. A federally maintained navigational channel extends north through the mouth of the bayou along the east shoreline to a point opposite of the western arm of the bayou. The federal channel terminates into a turning basin maintained for large vessels. Average water depth in the bayou is approximately eight feet. Deeper areas are located within the navigational channel. Maximum water depth exceeds 20 feet.

Despite recent efforts to improve surface water quality, significant concentrations of legacy contaminate remain confined in the sediments of the bayou. Numerous studies have documented elevated levels of heavy metals (cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, mercury,) polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) (benzo(a)-pyrene, anthracene, acenaphthene,) pesticides (chlordane, DDD, DDT, endrin, dieldrin, Mirex,) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) (Mohrherr et al., 2006; Debusk et al., 2002; Wood and Bartel, 1994; Stone and Morgan, 1991.)

The project is made possible from a recently awarded $1.1 million RESTORE Pot 3 grant from the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council and Gulf Consortium to the county. This grant award allows for complete sediment analysis, design and permitting and it also leverages a $330,000 RESTORE Pot 2 grant received from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to assist with design.

The meeting will be held in conjunction with the regularly scheduled Marine Advisory Committee meeting at the Escambia County Central Office Complex at 3363 W. Park Place, at 5:30 p.m., on Aug. 8.

Written comments may be submitted by email to BayouChicoTeam@myescambia.com by the close of business, Friday, Sept. 2, 2022. Responses to written comments received by the deadline will also be posted to the project page.

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