Information provided by Association of Florida Conservation District and USDA-NRCS
A major storm event in April 2014 resulted in 24 inches of rain in an eight-hour time frame, causing widespread flooding and many erosion problems on private lands in Santa Rosa County. A major problem that occurred during this storm was the formation of a large gully on the property owned by Jimmy Andajaur and Kari Brock in north-central Santa Rosa County. Overnight, a gully approximately 30 feet deep, 50 feet wide, and over a quarter mile long formed. This devastating event caused severe property damage and economic hardship to the landowners. The erosion from the gully also threatened the local economy since it contributed approximately 56,000 tons of sediment directly into West Coldwater Creek, a large creek in the area that is the lifeblood of many family farms, small eco-tourism businesses, campgrounds, and a thriving canoe rental industry. Through a partnership with the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Team (GCERT), the Florida Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) secured a RESTORE Act grant to assist with repairing the large gully. Santa Rosa County Board of Commissioners (BOCC) provided additional funding to help make this project a reality.
“The scope of this project was so large we simply couldn’t help using our traditional farm bill programs. It took NRCS, GCERT, and Santa Rosa BOCC all working together to help this hard-working family save their farm, address a vital resource concern, and eliminate a major contributor of sediment in one of the largest and most important water ecosystems in Northwest Florida," said Trent Mathews, Santa Rosa County District Conservationist, USDA-NRCS. "This was one of the most rewarding projects I’ve ever been a part of during my career with NRCS. It makes me proud to be part of an organization that can help people in need.”
"There was a time we were afraid to let our kids come out to our property or explore without our supervision. With the repairs in place, we don't have a worry about them playing around this huge gully and risking someone getting severely injured. We also like that we were allowed to be involved in the design process to ensure that all structures fit our operation," said the landowners. "Now, if things need to be fixed, we can access areas we haven't been able to before to fix erosion problems. Thank you to everyone who was involved with saving our family land."
The first step of the process was to procure an engineering firm for the planning, design, and permitting portions of the project through a region-wide Request for Qualifications(RFQ) process work began in December 2021. Phase one of the project took approximately one year to complete. After which construction bids were solicited and construction began in February 2023. Over the course of four months, the construction reshaped the entire landscape installing a 60-inch corrugated pipe with articulated block matted waterways, and sodded diversions - all designed to convey the water to a stable outlet at the bottom of the hill and into a rock rip-rap plunge basin. The finished product resulted in a completely revitalized landscape of the impacted area with graded slopes and structures that can easily be maintained by the landowners with common farm machinery. This project was successful because partners came together to address a major resource concern and relieve these landowners of a large financial burden.
Photos of the gulley are available online here.