Holiday rains grow gully, repair grant needed

BY Jan Murray

Holiday rains grow gully, repair grant needed
Costs associated with repair of the gully—which is several feet wide and yards deep and ever changing—are estimated at $70,000. Monies are being sought through the United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service Emergency Watershed Protection Program. If the grant is awarded, the city will have to provide 25 percent of the repair costs, or about $18,000, either in the form of cash or in-kind services, such as labor or equipment.City Public Works Director Jerry James said, “We need to get it fixed before it gets any worse,” adding that run-off water in the city has already led to significant road damage that his crews have had to repair on nearby Bruer Road. He said to not fix the erosion problem related to the gully and surrounding areas will lead to more damage to city infrastructure, especially once two planned ballfields are built at the park. A retention pond is needed to not only control the current run-off and erosive issue but also to deter more detrimental run-off and erosion that will be exacerbated by the construction of ballfields. “The problem we have is uncontrolled water,” said James.Eventually, James explained,  the uncontrolled water run-off through the known gully and in other areas—gullies perhaps not even discovered yet—will widen the area’s flood plain because of sediment and debris being washed into creeks and rivers. The Claybank Creek and the Choctawhatchee River are nearby. He said with those waterways becoming more and more shallow and clogged, future flooding becomes more of an issue because it will take less and less rain to fill the water bodies up and overflow the banks.The current active gully situation is too costly for the city to handle on its own and James said his department has been monitoring the site since it was first discovered, awaiting a significant rain event that would qualify the city to apply for help. He said building the bus barn some 10 years ago without a retention pond has led to the current situation.“They ran the water off in the woods because it was city property and thought it (water run-off) would just go off in the woods and not hurt anything. They didn’t know that it was going down in the woods, eroding and causing this,” he said. “To get grant money, we had to have a rain event and get a certain amount of rain in a certain time period to qualify us for a grant. In December, we got that rain event.”James said he does not know if the grant money, if awarded, can be combined with city funds to clear out the gully and create the needed retention pond or if the money can only be used to repair the current gully situation.Officials hope to hear if they’ve been approved for the grant this week.
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