Foley is going to have to pay nearly $100,000 to complete the process of getting a much larger federal grant to begin the Bon Secour River Headwaters Restoration Project.
“It is a $1.5 million grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Environmental Benefits Fund,” Foley Environmental Director Leslie Gahagan said.
But in the course of securing the grant, it was discovered that a small portion of the property being purchased isn’t eligible for the monies.
“The parcel that we are purchasing included 93.16 acres after surveys were completed,” Gahagan said. “Of that, five acres cannot be part of the project. It’s too high in elevation to make it work. The federal programs won’t pay for that portion of the acquisition, so as a city we’re going to have to foot the bill for that five acres and then determine what to do with it after the fact.”
Foley’s City Council recently voted to spend just under $100,000 to pay for those five acres because the parcel couldn’t be split. The grant will fund the purchase of the rest of the property south of West Michigan Avenue and west of County Road 26. It will also fund the preliminary planning and other initial parts of the project. The council authorized paying Volkert Engineering more than $500,000 for preliminary work on the project at its April 1 council meeting.
“We hope to close in the next couple of weeks on the property acquisition and then in conjunction with that, we’re under final construction design,” Gahagan said. “By this summer [we should] have all of the project details worked out and permitting submitted. Then we’ll just be awaiting a new grant for actual construction.”
The purpose of the project is to better manage stormwater runoff from Foley and limit damage to streams that lead to the Bon Secour River and to filter the water as it flows through.
“They’re basically building a constructed wetland that will perform natural treatment of stormwater flows,” Gahagan said. “It helps with erosion of the banks and with all the sedimentation from development as well.”
Another pair of grants Foley received will help fund new boardwalks at the city’s Graham Creek Nature Preserve. The grants are from the Recreational Trails Program through the U.S. Department of Transportation as well as the Alabama Coastal Area Management Program administered through the Alabama Department of Natural Resources.
“We’ve got one grant that’s going to be about 350 feet near our canoe launch to access a bank for fishing,” Gahagan said. “On that one, we are finished with the design and moving into the bidding process. There’s no way to access the southern bank of our park unless you’re going by water or it’s a pretty hefty jaunt hiking. This will give immediate access for those who want to fish or just for people who want to go on that farther [away] and quieter side of the park.”
The second one will add about 1,200 feet to an existing handicapped-accessible trail in the park.
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