Marianna Mayor Rico Williams and other city officials were among those to attend a ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday morning to mark the completion of a $1.4 million stormwater project on the campus of Chipola College.

College president Sarah Clemmons did the honors, surrounded by local beauty queens and city and state officials, including several from one the Northwest Florida Water Management District, which administers the state’s Water Supply Development Grant program that provided $671,340 for the 6.75-acre stormwater pond, which is highlighted by two fountain features that are lit at night for extra visual impact.

The project was also funded through a $792,582 contribution from FEMA, and $20,000 from Chipola College. Its primary function is to capture stormwater that collects on about half the campus, roughly 192 acres, and on some of the surrounding acres in the City of Marianna which lie in the drainage basin that contributes stormwater to the area where the pond was built.

Before that pond was created, much of that stormwater — generated as rain falls, collects on the ground, and gathers debris — simply travelled through the campus undeterred, especially during periods of heavy flooding, until it reached the Chipola River and poured into it, untreated. Along the way, the stormwater would sometimes flood areas like College Street, the Public Service building’s parking lot, and other areas. The pond’s construction gives that water a central place to flow and settle its debris to the bottom and, in doing so, significantly reduce flooding and the pollution that flows into the river.

And it will also provide an opportunity for the campus to conserve water. The natural filtering process that occurs after the water makes its way to the pond makes the water suitable for irrigation as the debris falls away. Some of it will be harvested after settling occurs and used to irrigate lawns on campus and, potentially, other places. It won’t be used on the baseball field, but can be applied to many less sensitive areas.

Some of the water will be pumped out of the pond, as needed, after it has moved in natural flow from the west to the east end of the pond, losing pollutants along the way as the debris settles.

The City of Marianna, as the agency through which the grant was received, is also an active partner in the effort.

The big pond has, in effect, swallowed up a much smaller retention pond on the Chipola campus, around which the city stormwater was flowing.

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