Residents who live near Bowlees Creek and Pearce Drain relived stories of the disastrous flooding they experienced before Hurricane Irma during a Manatee County Commission workshop.
This rehashed a discussion of a long-sought stormwater utility fee that could help fund flood mitigation projects.
Engineers with the county’s public works department presented information on the history of the area and how much rain the watersheds received during the no-name storm at the end of August.
The Whitfield area in south Manatee County has three watersheds, side by side: Bowlees Creek, Pearce Drain and Rattlesnake Slough.
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Since 1984, the stormwater design standard in Manatee County has been a 25-year, 24-hour storm event of 8 inches, according to deputy director for engineering services Sia Mollanazar.
The standard for floodplain compensation accounts for a “cup for cup,” Mollanazar said, which essentially means that for every cup of fill that is placed for a new project, a developer needs to account for a cup of stormwater retention.
But observed rainfall for a 24-hour period from Aug. 26 to 27 at Bowlees Creek and Pearce Drain exceeded the 8-inch design standard, with 11.9 inches and 9.67 inches, respectively.
In the three-day duration of that no-name storm, Bowlees Creek received 17.78 inches of rain, and Pearce Drain received 13.25 inches.
Streets off of Bowlees Creek have flooded twice in one year. The Centre Lake neighborhood, which is directly east of Pearce Drain, has flooded five times since 1988.
During public comment, some pointed fingers at neighboring developments popping up and sliding runoff toward them; others pushed blame on the county and urged officials to dredge their stormwater ditches.
“This is not really stuff that I expected to have to deal with,” said Blake Williams, a Centre Lake resident. “In the three years that I’ve lived there, I’ve flooded twice, and I was told I live in a 100-year floodplain. Realistically, I should buy a lottery ticket.”
But it all comes down to one thing: funding.
The county does not have a stormwater utility fee, which is one of the reasons why its taxes comparatively lower than others, commissioners said. The fee could be used to fund stormwater maintenance projects and create flood mitigation. It would be tied into ad valorem taxes.
The public works department is conducting studies on the Pearce Drain and Bowlees Creek that run in the tune of $1 million. Public works director Ron Schulhofer indicated that they were looking to expand the scope of the study to include flood event mitigation, which could increase the cost up to $600,000. The Southwest Florida Water Management District would help split the cost.
While commissioners couldn’t take a vote during the work session, they indicated a unified interest in discussing the possibility of implementing a stormwater utility fee.
“We have an old car that has a lot of deferred maintenance, and we’re going to have to find the money,” Commissioner Stephen Jonsson said.
Also discussed Tuesday:
▪ A report on the Indigent Healthcare Services, low-income pool funded services and the Opioid-Specific Recover Peer Coaching program, for which funds were recently released.
▪ A presentation on economic development incentives and how staff are working with businesses in the Southwest District to improve the urban corridor.
▪ An update on Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE), which provides a payment program for residents who want to make energy efficiency improvements to their homes. Commissioners will consider coordinating with an agency so Manatee residents could have this option.