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failed local environmental project with no funding becomes fully funded multi-agency environmental solution for national estuary waterbody

Bennett swamp rehydration & conservation project

initial Problem

The city’s discharge from their water reclamation facility to the Halifax River was a major source of nutrients that was causing harmful algal blooms in this National Estuary Waterbody.

An engineering solution was identified, and PSC was asked to obtain funding for the project.

Changing Paradigms through Strategic Storytelling

Since there were no major funding sources for this type of project, PSC focused on the project benefits and used this story to convince a grantor whose mission aligned with these benefits to fund the project – even though it was ineligible under their rules. Nutrients in wastewater (point source) are denser than in stormwater (non-point source). So even though the grant was for non-point source projects, the award was provided due to the massive impact the project would have on the agency’s water quality mission (removing nutrients from the Halifax River).

catastrophic failure -
seen by PSC as Intermediate Obstacle

Immediately after receiving this unprecedented grant award, the city learned from the consultant engineer that the project would only provide 1/10th of the stated water quality benefits and was no longer viable.

The City Manager turned to PSC, his trusted advisor,  and directed us to create an alternate project and save the grant award.

Disruptive Thinking, Endgame Attitude, and Immediate Action creates win, win, win, win, win, win Final Outcome

PSC reached out to a trusted technical colleague to develop an alternate project that would honor the massive water quality benefit commitments made to the grantor.


The newly imagined project was in a different location than the currently funded project, on property the City didn’t own. It consisted of 19,000 linear feet of pipe and dispersal units to disperse reclaimed water into Bennett Swamp. This required a 1,425-acre flowage easement on State Forestry and water management district land, as well as an easement over private lands. Basically, it was an impossible project to design, permit and construct within the allotted timeframe.

PSC pitched the project directly to the key decision-maker, the Deputy Secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, strategically focusing on the end result: the environmental benefits. He agreed to transfer the grant funds to the new project on the spot, immediately securing the City over $2.5m in grant funding.

18 approvals from 12 agencies, including the Governor and Cabinet were required – all were impossibly obtained in 10 months, due to detailed oversight, strategic storytelling, decision-maker support granting full authority, critical path management, technical expertise, and a trusted team.


The alternate project was conceived, designed, permitted, and constructed while the clock on the  original grant award was ticking, and, in spite of hurricanes and unprecedented wet weather, it was impossibly constructed within the required grant period.

The alternate project far surpassed the positive water quality impacts of the original project, exceeding the Environmental Protection Agency’s impaired waters mandate – effectively addressing the water quality mandate for all stakeholders in the region and exceeding the commitments made to the grantor. An additional grantor who the City had been in a recent lawsuit with, funded the project and declared it a win, win, win, win, win, win at the ribbon cutting.

All seemingly impossible feats.

Planning Solutions Corp imagined and produced all of the deliverables shown below and was entrusted to oversee and direct the entire alternate project – from concept, through design and permitting, to construction and ribbon cutting.

PSC also provided:

  • funding strategy - obtaining and administering grant funding - 81% of project costs were funded through grants obtained by PSC.

  • strategic storytelling, public education, and public, grantor, and media relations services

“This project is a win, win, win, win, win, win! There are very few projects where you can get this many environmental benefits all in one place. It's an outstanding project for the city of Daytona Beach and we've got to look for more opportunities like this.”

Dr. Ann Shortelle, Executive Director

St. Johns River Water Management District

educational video series

PSC included an educational component in the grant request to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The video series produced by PSC reached 100,000 viewers with a focus on the environmental benefits of the project. Each video focused on the unique perspectives of the project partners. 

success story

The Success Story was developed to educate the public and provide key facts about the project's environmental benefits. It reached 25,000 viewers. 

Bennett Swamp Fact Sheet - Small_Page_2.jpg
FDEP Bennett Swamp Final Report - Final_Page_01.jpg

final report

The final report measured the effectiveness of the project at completion as compared to the stated objectives in the grant application.

Final Report - Supporting Document.jpg

Lessons learned

Highlights unexpected issues that arose and how the team addressed them to make the project successful.

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