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May 15, 2014

Lafayette County working to resolve flooding issues

Mayo — Flooding from recent rains and subsequent riverbank overflows continue to keep Lafayette County officials busy. The matter was discussed at length at the May 12 meeting of the Lafayette County Commissioners.

“We’ve got about 22 roads that remain closed due to flooding,” said Public Works Director Scott Sadler. “Two of them should probably come off today (May 12),” he added.

Sadler said they’ve just been following the river and dealing with flooding issues as they go along. The Hatch Bend area, he said, has not seen much relief from roadway flooding for weeks.

“We’re hoping by the end of the week we can get into that area,” said Sadler.

Pumping, which has been going on for the past month, 24 hours a day, seven days a week in various areas of the county, has been cut back to daylight hours only as waters have receded or evaporated, Sadler continued.

Commissioner Jack Byrd said he noticed that water levels have been going down quickly in the county and that pumping could probably be suspended. As of May 9, Sadler said the county has spent $15,000 on pumping over the last 30 days that includes overtime and fuel costs.

The board passed a motion 5-0 to stop the pumping immediately, however, Sheriff Brian Lamb asked if they could wait until they see what’s going to happen later in the week, as more rain is forecasted. The board then changed the motion to state they would stop pumping at least for one day, depending on weather conditions. Sadler said there are already measuring sticks in place that they are monitoring every 12 hours. If no more flooding rains fall, the pumping will cease.

Because of the flooding, several trees have also fallen throughout the county. With the ground so saturated, the slightest bit of wind can topple trees, Sadler explained.

Sadler urged patience from residents who are having road issues due to flooding. He said they are fixing them as fast as they can, when they can. The county, he said, has a limited amount of dump trucks, and with no rock at the Blue Rock mine due to flooding, they are having to go to Branford’s Suwannee American Cement to get road fill material.

Interlocal agreement

The commissioners approved an interlocal agreement between the town of Mayo and Lafayette County that basically states the two entities will join efforts to work together where appropriate to secure funding and other resources to aid with current and future flooding issues.

Hurry up and wait

Lafayette County has declared and re-declared on May 12, a state of emergency, which has been approved by the state. Now, they are waiting on the federal government’s decision to see if they will be awarded grant funds to repair CR 300 and CR 416, which were heavily damaged from recent flooding. It was estimated to cost about $850,000 just to repair CR 416, which underwent massive flooding in and around the area from heavy rains, as well as from overflow from nearby ponds and swamps that destroyed miles of ditches.

Commissioner Gail Garrard said she understood from Rep. Halsey Beshears office that Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD) had already been approved by the state legislature to receive $75,000, which is supposed to be divvied up among critical areas within the district.

“All it’s for is a water assessment,” Garrard clarified.

In attendance at the commissioner’s meeting was Frank Darabi from Darabi & Associates, who explained he has been working with local officials to address CR 300 and CR 416 in efforts to temporarily stop the damage.

“Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has funded this kind of problem before,” said Darabi. “They have requested emergency funding from Washington D.C. I’m pretty sure we’re going to get it. The question is, how fast?”

Darabi said he put the request in early to try to speed things up. Right of ways, he explained, will be needed from homeowners in the affected areas.

CR 300 has already been approved by the Florida Department of Transportation for widening and resurfacing, but the flooding issues have complicated things. Darabi said it would be prudent to correct the flooding issues before attempting to widen and resurface the road.

At a recent meeting with FDOT, Darabi said they would reallocate some leftover funds in the amount of $70,000 from the Shady Grove project to the CR 300 project. SRWMD also agreed to transfer funds in the amount of $50,000 that were set aside for CR 416 over to the CR 300 project because it would only be a drop in the bucket to repair CR 416.

“So, we have some money to work with,” said Darabi.

Before any work is done on CR 300, Darabi suggested the board have a meeting with the property owners to discuss all the issues and the suggested corrective measures in a workshop type session. The board agreed and have the workshop set for their next evening meeting on May 28, at 6 p.m.

Road closures as of Wednesday, May 14:

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