District works hand in hand with local governments to recover from Hurricane Irma

District staff opening gates on water control structure

District staff opened gates in the Upper St. Johns River Basin to create more storage within the district headwaters to avoid sending additional water north in the St. Johns River.

District staff opened gates in the Upper St. Johns River Basin to create more storage within the district headwaters to avoid sending additional water north in the St. Johns River.

PALATKA, Fla., Sept. 18, 2017 — Just a week ago, Hurricane Irma pummeled the Florida peninsula, causing severe flooding and wind damage across the 18 counties of the St. Johns River Water Management District. Since then, the district has been working with local governments and other stakeholders in their recovery efforts by reducing floodwater flows to the north, providing pumps and personnel to lessen localized flooding, and assessing damage from the storm.

“I am very proud of the dedication and work of district staff in preparing for the storm in advance, their work during the storm and their quick response afterward,” said St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle. “Without hesitation, they jumped into action to assist local governments and residents by getting pumps deployed to help alleviate flooding as soon as storm conditions allowed us to safely do so. When our neighbors and partners need us, we are committed to stand ready to help.”

“The city of Hawthorne greatly appreciates the assistance from the St. Johns River Water Management District in the loan of the water pump,” said Hawthorne City Manager Ellen Vause. “We had a neighborhood flooded from Hurricane Irma with 1–2 two feet of water in homes. The pump drained the area in 24 hours; now we are maintaining the retention pond with a smaller pump while the area dries out. The willingness of the district to partner with its communities for resources and help is an excellent example of good stewardship and cooperation.”

“I want to express my sincere appreciation for the district’s assistance provided to Putnam County in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew,” said interim Putnam County Administrator Stacey Manning. “The pump they provided helped to maintain the safety of the residents of Palatka Healthcare, and the four ATVs were invaluable in our being able to access otherwise inaccessible locations where roads were flooded and/or washed out. I look forward to our continued spirit of cooperation in the future.”

“The district provided two pumps to assist in draining areas of St. Johns County impacted by Hurricane Irma,” said Benjamin W. Bright, St. Johns County Road and Bridge manager. “The district’s assistance accelerated the reduction of flooding, reducing impact and allowing faster restoration. The efforts of their staff to establish and maintain the pumps is greatly appreciated.”

Recovery efforts continue in the district. Current missions include:

  • At the headwaters of the St. Johns River, the district is diverting billions of gallons of water from the Upper St. Johns River Basin Project to reduce local and downstream St. Johns River flooding.
  • District staff have teamed up with local government staff in Jacksonville to assess damage.
  • The district staff are partnering with local governments by providing pumps to divert floodwaters. Pumps operated in Alachua, Flagler, Putnam and St. Johns counties to remedy localized flooding. Another pump is currently operating in Seminole County.
  • District land managers are working diligently to inspect and clear public lands and address safety hazards caused by the storm. While most of the district’s conservation areas remain closed for repairs, Lake Monroe Water Management Area (Kratzert tract of the Lake Monroe Conservation Area) in Volusia County and Longleaf Flatwoods Reserve in Alachua County have reopened.
  • In addition, the Upper St. Johns River Marsh Water Management Area, which includes Blue Cypress, Three Forks and River Lake conservation areas, has reopened; however, two access areas within the WMA remain closed. Those areas are:
  • Moccasin Island tract of the Upper St. Johns River Marsh WMA (Wickham Road). This access point remains closed until the water level recedes and the access road is inspected and repaired.
  • The C-54 Canal remains closed due to high water and the discharges that are underway due to Hurricane Irma.
  • All district offices are open for business.
  • District regulatory staff are available to answer questions or issue emergency waivers to assist with the recovery effort. For assistance, please contact the Jacksonville Service Center at 904-730-6270 or 800-852-1562 or the district’s Palatka headquarters at 386-329-4500 or 800-451-7106.
  • Due to water damage to the Governing Board room at the district’s Palatka headquarters, the district’s September board meeting will be held on Sept. 19 at the Maitland Service Center, 601 South Lake Destiny Road, Suite 200, Maitland, FL  32751. The meeting begins at 4:30 p.m. and will be followed by the tentative millage and budget hearing at 5:05 p.m.
  • Other meeting dates and locations may have changed due to hurricane damage. Check out our meetings calendar at www.sjrwmd.com/meetings-announcements

For continuing updates, visit the district’s website, www.sjrwmd.com.