The West Florida Regional Planning Council serves as staff to the Bay Area Resource Council (BARC) with the main objective to assist in improving the area's quality of life and the waters of the Pensacola Bay System through community participation and coordination with local governments, citizens, academia, and the private sector. This objective is achieved primarily through the activities of the BARC and its subcommittees.
BARC was spawned from the Escambia/Santa Rosa Coast Resource Planning and Management Committee created in February 1985 by then Governor Bob Graham with the purpose of engaging in agreements with public and private entities for assistance in planning, financing, and managing the physical, chemical, biological, economic and aesthetic aspects of the Pensacola Bay Watershed. An inter-local agreement between Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties and the Cities of Pensacola and Gulf Breeze was established in May 1987 to solidify the organization into an entity that could accept funding and promote goals of the committee. The City of Milton has since joined the BARC. Advisory committees were established to help identify problem areas and develop solutions for projects in the Pensacola Bay Watershed. Information presented to and approved by the BARC may then be forwarded to the local government for consideration.
A Multi-State, Multi-County Basin
A watershed is defined as an area where all surface waters drain to a single common place. A number of rivers and creeks in west Florida and south-central Alabama flow into this single place... Pensacola Bay. Only one third of the bay system's 7,000 square mile watershed is within Florida. The remaining two thirds are in Alabama. The map above shows the extent of the watershed and location of counties in the basin. Theoretically, the furthest drop of water from Pensacola Bay enters the watershed about eight miles east of Union Springs (Bullock County), Alabama at about 550 feet above sea level at the source of Old Town Creek.
Since the watershed lies in two states and includes portions of fifteen counties, achieving goals for clean water are compounded. This is unlike the peninsula of Florida, where drainage basins lie entirely within Florida's boundaries. Differing regulations, water quality standards, land use practices, best management practices, public/private sector interests and goals create an array of problems. It takes dedicated individuals from many walks of life to work together to manage a watershed as large as the Pensacola Bay System area. This includes politicians and local government staff members, land and homeowners, agricultural and silvicultural interests, developers, public land managers, industry, citizens, and others.
The Pensacola Bay Watershed includes portions of the following counties and estimated percentages of each county's surface area within the watershed:
In Alabama - Escambia (90%), Covington (90%), Conecuh (99%), Butler (75%), Crenshaw (95%), Pike (40%), Montgomery (10%), Bullock (20%), Coffee (2%), Loundes (1%), Monroe (2%).
The BARC and its sub-committees have a long history of engaging the public with projects designed to enhance the quality of the Pensacola Bay Watershed. Some examples of these projects are:
Resource Rangers: This is a series of educational environmental videos geared toward middle school aged children. The program includes classroom curriculum, activities, and field trips. The curriculum encourages protection of our environment through responsible actions on the part of the next generation of citizens.
Bay Day: This in an annual event where 5th grade students from Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties are invited to participate in an interactive event staffed by environmental science professionals with the goal of increasing student awareness and content knowledge about critical environmental issues, such as wetlands, health concerns, water quality, recycling, sea grass planting, environmental engineering, careers and many more.
Stormwater Inlet Marking and Education: The stormwater inlet marking project focused on areas within Bayou Texar and Bayou Chico. Curb markers on the concrete casing above the curbside inlets in areas whose stormwater runoff feeds directly to the Bayous to make the public aware of where these inlets drain. As part of this project, educational pamphlets were provided to over 1,200 households in the areas that markers were placed.