BROOKSVILLE — The project was designed to aid in the filtering of stormwater as it flows toward Peck Sink. But the drenching rain of earlier this week proved to be too much to handle.
The heavy rain caused large areas of erosion in the berms that had been constructed over the last year at Peck Sink Preserve, south of Brooksville — just as the $1.3 million project was nearing completion.
Now the county and the contractor are working on a plan to repair the damage, which affected about 60 percent of the berms.
"It was an extreme event, an act of God,'' said Dale Ravencraft, the engineering manager for the county's environmental services division.
The upside was that even with the deluge, the filtering ponds worked.
"It performed exactly like it was supposed to,'' Ravencraft said. "It was a good test, and we're going to be able to improve the system'' as repairs are made.
The project, which was awarded to Goodwin Brothers Construction in June 2011, included swales, lined ponds, piping, diversion structures and plants to treat the stormwater entering Peck Sink, which serves as the drain into the aquifer for a large area from southwest Brooksville to the Hernando County Airport.
The project was funded through a grant from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, as well as money from the Southwest Florida Water Management District and the county's stormwater taxing unit.
"The project was still in the hands of the contractor,'' Ravencraft said. "Because it was an act of God, we will work with the contractor to repair the slopes and stabilize them.''
About $70,000 is left in the project budget, and Ravencraft said he believes the money should cover the cost of repairs. The contractor has already agreed to transport dirt it has available to the site for repairs. The new dirt has more clay content and should work better, he said.
The berms had been planted with grass seed, and the millet had already grown. But the bahia had not yet established itself. Ravencraft said seed was used because it was less expensive than sod, but with the drought that proceeded the storms, it didn't grow enough to protect the berms.
Even if sod had been used, he said, the berms would have been damaged because of the volume of water rushing through the ponds to the sink. He said he heard reports of as much as 9 inches of rain this week in the Brooksville area.
When the contract was awarded last summer, Ravencraft said, there was some concern about how the rainy season might affect the work. But last summer didn't produce any weather that harmed the progress.
"I guess our luck ran out,'' he said. "I just wish we hadn't had such an extreme event so early in the season.''
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 848-1434.