Friday, April 30, 2010

Citizens ask for more storm water drains

Dark clouds covered the sky Saturday, April 24, as U.S. Census Bureau employee Marcia Baxley returned home from a long morning of work. As she entered her apartment and looked at the gloomy sky through the living room windows, her facial expressions were concerning.

“When it rains around here, the waters can get pretty high,” Baxley said. “I don’t want to be liable for any water damages that could happen.”

The predicted weather forecast for that day was heavy thundershowers. Baxley said she would take precautions and line the front of her apartment door with towels. Fortunately she did, because a few hours later, the streets were overflowing with water.

On several occasions, Baxley’s apartment has fallen victim to minimal flooding, due to storm water runoff. Baxley resides close to the UWF campus, where runoff is common.

“On some rainy days I’ll be driving home and see water flowing through the streets, picking up trash sometimes,” she said.

It is not only Baxley that worries about water runoff. Storm water has always been a critical environmental issue in Pensacola, especially since it discharges into the bay.

Located in a watershed—an area of land that gathers precipitation easily—Pensacola has always been threatened by storm water runoff. According to the Pensacola City Web site, approximately $26 million are being spent on necessary storm water improvements, including sewer reconstruction and more storm water drains.

The Pensacola City Web site also states that the $26 million worth of renovations will be going on over the course of the next 30 years, which may be too long of a wait for some.

Charlie Morgan, manager of field services in Pensacola, said there have been several cases of erosion in Pensacola due to storm water.

“We’ve had some frequent cases of erosion due to storm water, especially in the Bayview area,” Morgan said.

After Saturday’s heavy rainfall, Pensacola citizens are concerned there might be a lack of storm water drains in the area, particularly at UWF.

Jasmine Jorge, secretary at the Fountains Apartments, said there is a lack of storm water drains on campus.

“More drains should be placed on campus near the parking lot by the Psychology building,” she said.

Jorge also said frequent runoff is noticeable in low-level areas, especially when it rains hard, just like Saturday.

The majority of storm water drains in the city empty into Bayou Chico and Bayou Texar. Toxic materials from storm water runoff such as garbage and oils from cars are deposited into the bayou, harming aquatic wildlife and creating health hazards.

Several health alerts concerning Bayou Chico and Bayou Texar have been addressed in the past.

According to Pensacola’s storm water utility fee, changes to the city’s sewage and storm water drains will be occurring over the next few years.

While future changes are falling into place, Pensacola residents can reduce risk of water contamination by doing simple things such as disposing of motor oil properly and cleaning up after pets so storm water will not pick up and carry bacteria and contaminants.

“It seems that the harder it rains, the worse the runoff gets,” Baxley said, glancing out the window.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Heather Reed on Deadman's Island Restoration Project

Heather Reed, owner of Ecological Consulting Services Inc., gave a briefing about the Deadman’s Island Restoration Project in Gulf Breeze on April 7.

As project manager of the restoration project, Reed stressed the importance of restoring the area, due to its historic sources and natural surroundings.

“You can go there and just touch history,” Reed said. “You never know what’s going to pop up.”

Deadman’s Island has a vast history, a place once used by the Spanish and British in the 18th Century. The old peninsulas later became a quarantine station for ships in 1891.

Because of the constant use of Deadman’s Island in the past, evidence of erosion can be seen.

“The Shoreline has eroded significantly, almost two football field lengths,” Reed said. “There is almost 20 ft. of erosion in one year.”

Reed’s resolution to this rapid erosion is a five phase project meant to stop erosion and expand the shoreline. Phase one consists of an oyster breakwater system that will create a reef.

Reed said that 155 breakwater systems were created. She also said that this type of breakwater system is the first to be used in Florida.

While the breakwater systems are proving to be effective, Reed said she was wary of storm surges moving the systems.

“It’s not the hurricanes we have to worry about, it’s the storm surges,” she said.

While the restoration project was in effect during Hurricane Dennis, coffins from the 1800s were unearthed at Deadman’s Island.

Phase two of the restoration project consists of ecodiscs, which demonstrate rapid oyster growth and are not affected by tides.

Permitting for the restoration project was allowed due to extreme public interest. Forty-two letters of support were written and a petition with approximately 200 signatures.

“Community involvement has been amazing in this project,” Reed said. “Everybody wants to save Deadman’s Island.”

The general public is invited to help build coir logs and commence planting at Deadman’s Island on April 17. For more information on the Deadman’s Island Restoration Project, visit the Web site at

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Restoration of Fossil Creek

After watching the documentary concerning the restoration of Fossil Creek in Arizona, I learned a few new things.

First off, opposing organizations are capable of putting aside their differences and working together for similar causes. This surprised me at first because while watching the documentary, I had serious doubts that the Arizona Public Service would cooperate in restoring Fossil Creek to its original state. It gives me hope that other organizations will do the same.

And next, I had minimal knowledge about dams and what it is they do to the environment. My whole life, I always just looked at them as a man-made structure that just kind of…sits there. After watching this documentary, I am aware that dams can affect wildlife in the area and harm other species.

Fossil Creek seems to look like a majestic place to visit. I am satisfied with the ending outcome, and am glad that the APS was willing to cooperate. I am in high hopes that other dams across the U.S. will be destroyed in the future, since, according to the documentary, many of them serve no purpose anymore.

Why keep something that will do nothing but harm wildlife?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Green Senses

It’s spring in the university woods along the Ball Nature Trail and I am completely at ease. Surrounded in green, I sit down on the wooden path, leaning against tree bark. The bark feels unusually smooth in texture.

I am in total silence. I feel as if I have entered a dream-like state. Nothing in my waking life matters and the stress just seems to disappear.

I look up and see the wind gently swaying the trees. The branches seem to be trying to leave the earth and touch the heavens. The tips of the trees are sprouting fresh, green leaves. The birth of spring.

Behind a mess of twigs and leaves are vibrantly green leaf pads floating in the shallows of the lake, concealed in a way that casual passerby wouldn’t notice. A secret little haven. The tips of the pads are a bright yellow.

I look up into the clear blue sky and back down into the shallows of the lake. I can faintly see the blue from above. There is not a cloud in sight today. Looking up, I feel as if I am staring into a bright, blue void. The sun is hiding behind two taller trees, as if it were scared of its exposure up in the sky, with no clouds to hide it.

Two people are loudly and recklessly walking down the trail. They stop for a moment to talk. I wish they would go away. I feel violated that they would dare intrude my quiet space. I wait for them to exit the vicinity.

I look beyond the shaded shallows of the lake and see a fallen tree, blocking the deeper expanse of the lake. The collapsed tree has formed a boundary between the main lake and the beautiful green pads. If the tree were gone, would the leaf pads float away? There are so many of them crowded together, waiting for the tree to move so they can unleash their beauty and float away.

At this instant I hear the chirping of birds to my left. I jump in surprise but soon return to my quiet zone. The sound of the bird made me realize how disconnected I was from the busy world these past few minutes.

I have been putting all my attention towards the green leaf pads that I failed to notice the bright, crimson tree to my right. It is a beautiful red tree, concealed amongst green lush.

I inhale the smells of spring. Fresh air.