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Pine Island drainage issues rise with rainfall
Residents appeal to the county for a solution.
By LOGAN NEILL, Times Staff Writer
Published September 4, 2007
Residents of Pine Island say they've been battling drainage problems for years. And lately, it seems to have gotten worse. "You end up having to slog around in calf-deep water just to go get the mail and the newspaper," resident Christina Mondo said. "Add to that the fact that it makes the mosquitoes worse and you see what we're up against."
[Courtesy of Christina Mondo]
PINE ISLAND - Christine Mondo's favorite time of the day is just after sunset. That's when things settle down on Pine Island.
The road outside her stilt home quiets as the last of the visitors at Alfred A. McKethan Park head back toward the mainland, leaving the tiny gulf-front community to its peaceful self.
Mondo says that's when Pine Island falls beneath nature's spell. As a gentle breeze whispers through the needles of Australian pines, the calls of waterfowl as they head toward their evening roosts create a soothing symphony.
However, there are times when nature delivers too much of a good thing. When summer afternoon thunderstorms rumble in from the east, Mondo knows they can also bring misery for her and her neighbors.
An example, Mondo says, was a pair of downpours in late July that dumped several inches of rain that quickly flooded her yard and much of the section of Pine Island Drive that runs past her house. So deep was the standing water that she asked the county to bring out some signs to warn drivers of the hazard. The signs had to stay up six days until the water dried.
Residents of Pine Island say they've been battling drainage problems for years. And lately, it seems to have gotten worse.
"You end up having to slog around in calf-deep water just to go get the mail and the newspaper," Mondo said. "Add to that the fact that it makes the mosquitoes worse and you see what we're up against."
At a community meeting at the Weeki Wachee Area Club last week, Mondo and other Pine Island residents spelled out their concerns to county officials, in hope that a solution to the flooding can finally be found.
But according to assistant county engineer Gregg Sutton, fixing the problem may not be so easy.
"When you're dealing with an area that's as low as Pine Island, your options are pretty limited," Sutton said. "It's more than a just a matter of drainage. It's a question of where are you going to put the water."
Sutton said that the island's drainage needs are unique. The narrow public right-of-way along roads does not offer much room for traditional open drainage structures such as swales and culverts. Any below-ground collection system would have to meet certain environmental guidelines designed to protect waterways from road runoff.
"You just can't go out and dig a ditch along the road anymore," said Sutton, who added that any permanent solution to the flooding would most likely incorporate a number of different ideas.
Longtime island resident Bill Cope believes that had the county paid more attention to the drainage problem in the past, it wouldn't be so bad today. He says existing culverts and drainage swales have become blocked, causing rainwater to back up into yards and side streets.
Sutton said that although it appears swales may have once existed along the roadways, developers of the island during the 1950s never put much effort into creating a workable drainage system that would keep up with the island's growth.
Said Sutton: "People build their homes higher now than they used to. You now have septic mounds and driveways that are higher than the crown of the road. The runoff has no place to go."
Sutton said that an underground storm drain system would probably be the best solution to flooding problems. Whether residents would want to pay for it is another issue, he said.
Meanwhile, Sutton said his department is exploring ways of alleviating the water backup areas along Pine Island Drive near the causeway entrance and the entrance to Alfred A. McKethan Park. The findings will be announced and discussed at a meeting sometime this month.
However, when it comes to flooded yards, Sutton says, residents are pretty much on their own.
"We're more than happy to make suggestions and to offer ideas," he said. "But in the end, it's their responsibility."