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Carpenter Creek Restoration Could Be RESTORE Project

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After years of neglect and pollution, work is underway to restore Carpenter Creek. Organizers are looking for a little help from their friends, and others.

Originating from a spring north of I-10, the creek meanders through Pensacola, especially the northeast portion, and empties into Bayou Texar. It’s been the victim of neglect for decades, but one local official wants to change that.

Pensacola City Councilwoman Sherri Myers says today, Carpenter Creek is considered an impaired body of water.

“We have an opportunity to get RESTORE funds, to address the restoration of Carpenter Creek and Bayou Texar,” Myers said. “I have reached out to the property owners along Carpenter Creek; the public, the scientific community and environmentalists.”

Emerald Coastkeepers, an environmental watchdog group, has been documenting conditions in the creek and along its banks. Myers recently hosted a town hall meeting on the creek to gather public input. Joining her was Coastkeepers Executive Director Laurie Murphy.

“They’re tired of the city not addressing the issues, they feel they’ve not had any cooperation, no one has been out there to help them,” said Murphy.

Storm water issues involving the creek is Mother Nature’s contribution, says Murphy. Humans also do their share of the damage.

“A lot of trash; dumpsters that are not enclosed properly where trash has access of going into the [watershed],” said Murphy. “And that’s anything from dirty diapers to beer bottles. We found tables, television sets, computer monitors, [and] tires.”

Add to that five major homeless camps along the banks, whose occupants are using the creek to bathe, and parts of the creek with sandbags and hardline structures which are causing erosion.

“While we’ve done some things with some water quality issues, and stormwater along the creek, I think there are opportunities for us to do better,” said Escambia County Commissioner Grover Robinson, whose District Four plays host to much of Carpenter Creek, his top priority for spending some of the $70 million coming to the county from the BP oil spill money through the RESTORE Act.

“We have a gem there, and we have some areas that are more in the commercial area, that really could afford a great walking amenity along the creek,” Robinson said. “While at the same time using some of that buffer area to significantly improve water quality. I think there are a number of things that can be done in that overall creek master plan.”

Coastkeeper’s Laurie Murphy places the project’s cost at around $40 million, adding that’s just a drop in the bucket. Other possible funding streams will be sought.

“The rest of this project has got to be leveraged by grants on a long-term basis to create the whole picture,” Murphy said. “And not just creek stabilization, not just storm water issues.”

Commissioner Grover Robinson favors using some of the RESTORE Act funds to get the restoration started, and then look for leveraging opportunities.

“We should turn that $70 million into $280 million, and I think we can do that,” said Robinson. “The overall plan to put everything together is about five million dollars. We’re putting up about $1.3, or $1.4 [million] and we’re looking for the state to match it.”

More information on the Carpenter Creek project can be found at www.emeraldcoastkeeper.org, along with the organization’s Facebook page.