Help is on the way: City to receive funds for flood assistance

Savannah Vasquez
svasquez@thedestinlog.com
This map shows the areas of the city that will see improvements from flooding issues thanks to grant funding, as well as areas that are flood prone.

Last week Destin saw heavy rains that brought flooding to many of the low-lying areas around the city. For many residents this quick rise in the water table brought back memories of the flood in April 2014 that caused the area to declare a state of emergency.

Since last year’s flood, the city of Destin has been working diligently to improve the stormwater master plan, and gain new funding in order to make changes in the most flood-prone areas of the city.

In November of 2014, the city was awarded a grant for $3.6 million by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and has plans in motion to improve several residential areas that are close in proximity to the Choctawhatchee Bay.

“There are six areas that the city is focusing on with this $3.6 million grant,” said Doug Rainer, public information manager for the city. “Those areas are Calhoun Avenue and Forest Street, the Indian Bayou subdivision, Maltezos Street, Sandalwood Drive, Juanita Avenue and Snapper Drive, and Spring Lane and Whipporwill Lane.”

To view an interactive map of the city's flood-prone areas, CLICK HERE.

The grant proposal document detailed several ways in which the city would implement improvements.

“As part of the project, the city will establish roadside swale systems to provide treatment for shallow aquifer recharge prior to discharge, construct exfiltration systems to provide stormwater treatment, and repair poorly performing culverts,” the document reads.

In addition to the grant, the city was also awarded $500,000 in July from the state to fund a new pump in Heritage Run, a subdivision known for it’s flooding. The city has agreed to match those funds in order to cover the $1 million dollar cost for the project.

When asked if the Heritage Run program is currently underway, City Engineer David Campbell said the money has not yet arrived from the state.

“The state still hasn’t sent the agreement to us for review,” said Campbell. “They still have the money they have not released it yet.”

Campbell said he expects the state funds to come in by the end of the calendar year, and is currently preparing to launch the Heritage Run program as soon as the money is available.

“Right now we are getting the plans ready to go out to bid,” he said. “It’s a construction project and it takes time for it to bid out, but we expect the construction to begin in the first part of 2016.”

While Heritage Run and the other six city-designated areas have solutions in the works, there are other flood-prone areas in Destin that do not fall under the city’s jurisdiction. One such subdivision is Quail Run, a privately owned community that answers to a home owners association.

Carrie Kenworthy is a Quail Run resident who rents her property and told The Log that when flood rains come to the area she has been hard-pressed to find relief.

“When it flooded last year, we had water in our house for six days and we thought everybody else was having the same problem we were,” Kenworthy said. “We were knee deep five to six days into it, and when FEMA came out and explained it to us, they said every time it rains heavily we need our streets to be pumped.”

Like others in her subdivision, Kenworthy said she believed the city was responsible for clearing out the water, however she soon found the answer was a bit more complicated.

“I thought the city was automatically contracted to come in and pump the streets,” she said. “Our streets were completely flooded, our lawns were flooded, it was sloshing on the garage when the city came out and pumped it. Our landlord didn’t know what to do.”

Although the city does help these private subdivisions in case of an emergency, Kenworthy said she would like to see better communication lines for those living on the property.

“What if it’s in the middle of the night? There should at least be some number everybody can call to say, ‘Hey our house is going to flood,’” she said.

As for the city, Rainer said there is a sense of urgency in bringing about stormwater improvement, and help is on the way.

“With the floods in April 2014 and the most recent rain event, it is very clear that we have flooding issues that need attention immediately,” said Rainer. “The Heritage Run pump system and the Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund grant project will address these issues now. The state grant and the Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund grant are very important because they allow the city to improve flooding problems and stormwater quality issues while taking a lot of the financial burden off of our tax-paying residents.”