Bayou Chico is located within the Pensacola Bay watershed in south central Escambia County. The bayou has a surface water area of approximately 235 acres with a surrounding drainage basin of more than 6,600 acres. The eastern half of the bayou and associated contributing basin is generally located within the City of Pensacola with the remaining western bayou and associated contributing basin located outside city limits in unincorporated Escambia County.
Three main freshwater tributaries flow into Bayou Chico from the surrounding watershed. Jones Creek, the largest of the three tributaries, flows east through Jones Swamp and Warrington eventually forming the western arm of the bayou. Jackson Creek flows east through west Pensacola eventually forming the west end of the north arm of the bayou. A third tributary known as Maggie’s Ditch flows west through portions of the City of Pensacola eventually forming the east end of the north arm of the bayou.
Bayou Chico is widely considered one of the most historically contaminated water bodies in Florida. Total Maximum Daily Loads have been approved by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for fecal coliform bacteria and excess nutrients. A Basin Management Action Plan, or BMAP, was adopted by FDEP in 2011 to address the fecal coliform TMDL. Numerous scientific studies have documented elevated levels of heavy metals (cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, mercury), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) (benzo(a)-pyrene, anthracene, acenaphthene), pesticides (chlordane, DDD, DDT, endrin, dieldrin, Mirex), and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in the bayou sediments.
Federal, state and local stakeholders have since spent millions of dollars on water quality improvement, stormwater retrofit, and sewer expansion projects within the watershed. Despite recent gains, additional effort is still needed. Significant administrative and civil penalties related to the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill have resulted in millions in addition funding opportunities for Bayou Chico.