Northwest Florida Water Management District plans to purchase a conservation easement on the 433- acre Dry Creek Plantation to ensure long-term protection for the Chipola River, for which Dry Creek is a tributary.

The plan is dependent on Gov. Ron DeSantis signing off on it in his budget. That decision could come as early as next week.

The purchase of the perpetual easement would leave the land in the hands of the owner, but obligate him to leave it in an essentially natural state, and the easement “travels” with the property if it is subsequently sold to someone else.

The parcel is located in Jackson County south of Interstate 10 and within the contribution area for the Chipola River but does not directly front it. The property is bisected by Highway 73 with frontage along Dry Creek and is located north of Rook Spring Group. The parcel features at least four karst points.

“As we have seen following the devastation of Hurricane Michael, the Chipola River plays such a vital role in the economy and quality of life for residents in Jackson County," said John Alter, secretary of the District's Governing Board who represents Jackson County. "This conservation easement will provide even more protection for the precious natural resources in our community."

Following appraisals and a review appraisal, the District's Governing Board agreed to purchase the conservation easement for $194,378.40.

"This marks a chance to protect wildlife, the environment, and the Chipola River," said State Sen. George Gainer, who represents Jackson County. "I know how important the Chipola River is not just to northwest Florida but to all of Florida, and I appreciate the work done by the water management district to secure this conservation easement."

"It's important not only to preserve and protect shorelines, but also the surrounding contribution areas where water recharges into the river," said State Rep. Brad Drake, who represents Jackson County. "This acquisition does just that and will help ensure the Chipola River remains one of Florida's most beautiful rivers."

The Northwest Florida Water Management District is charged with managing and protecting the water resources of the Florida panhandle in a manner that best ensures the continued welfare of the people and natural resources of its 16-county region, including Bay, Calhoun, Escambia, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Leon, Liberty, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Wakulla, Walton, Washington, and western Jefferson counties.

The funding for the potential easement purchase would come from a Department of Environmental Protection grant.

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