Northwest Florida is home to a new estuary program whose mission is restoring and protecting the water quality and natural resources of the Pensacola and Perdido watersheds. The program, known as the Pensacola and Perdido Bays Estuary Program, is using a $2 million grant to establish a comprehensive conservation management plan.
PPBED received funding from the EPA to initially implement a Trash Free Waters Project. UWF senior Emerson Cheney said that the project officially launched in July, and will come to Pond Creek in Milton in October.
“A portion of the watershed management program is the Trash-free Water Project. It focuses on three local creeks, including Jones Creek, Carpenter Creek, and Pond Creek,” Cheney said. “We’ve already begun our efforts on Jones Creek. We had 47 volunteers who collected 326 pounds of trash. We had volunteers from UWF, NAS, and several groups from the community.”
In addition to removing trash, a major goal of the Trash Free Waters Project is to install trash booms.
“We’ve contracted with Osprey Initiative out of Mobile to install their specialized trash booms, which act as an accumulation point for floating trash,” Cheney said. “While we were doing the tactical cleanup of Jones Creek, they were installing the boom.”
The next stage of the Trash-Free Project is documenting what trash they collect and determining where it is coming from.
“We don’t plan to just collect trash on a regular basis, we plan to improve our water quality,” Cheney said. “This will be done through careful monitoring, then working with local businesses and schools to develop ‘trash abatement’ plans.”
Cheney, as the volunteer coordinator for the Trash-Free Waters Project, got involved with the program while doing an internship. That internship turned into a summer job, and now he will juggle his volunteer coordinator efforts with his senior year at UWF.
“I was tied into the estuary program through an internship for class,” Cheney said, “then I was hired part-time.”
Cheney plans to pursue a military career doing marine environment work post graduation.
The next stage will focus on Pond Creek in Milton, with a trash boom to be installed near Mayo Park.
“We’ll gather at the park on Oct. 9 at 8:45 a.m., and focus our cleanup efforts there and downstream to the Blackwater River,” Cheney said.
Interested volunteers can contact Emerson Cheney at firstname.lastname@example.org. More information is available on the program’s website at ppbep.org.