The Southwest Florida Water Management District is updating computer-model maps that identify flood prone areas within Pasco County.
Residents at several community meetings have provided public input to the process by sharing first-hand where flooding happens, and also where it doesn’t.
On Nov. 16, residents within the Duck Lake watershed got their turn to study existing maps and meet with representatives of the water management agency, known as Swiftmud.
About 1,500 letters were mailed to area residents in unincorporated areas of Pasco, in and around Dade City and San Antonio. About 100 people attended the event at Pasco County High School, off State Road 52 in Dade City.
“We’re trying to gather as much data as we can to know we’re getting good results,” said Scott Letasi, engineering and watershed management manager for Swiftmud. “This is the last opportunity for the public to give us any additional feedback on how well we did in coming up with flood elevations.”
Residents came in to study the maps, pinpointing their homes as either inside or outside areas prone to flooding. Some brought photographs of flooding in their neighborhoods; others talked about their experiences with heavy rainfalls or hurricanes. And, some wanted to know how new development projects might increase flood risks.
Local governments will be able to use the finalized maps to aid in land use and zoning decisions. The information also aids in making development decisions in areas in and around floodplains and wetlands. And, the exercise identifies areas where stormwater projects are needed.
Residents can use the data and maps to decide on land purchases.
Leslie Rookey did that when she bought nearly 20 years ago. She settled on a house on Howard Avenue, outside Dade City, that hadn’t seen flooding in decades.
It’s been high and dry since, though waters did wash over Howard during Hurricane Irma.
Rookey keeps up with the data, and recalled maps she saw 10 years ago. Her house remains outside the flood plain.
“It’s moved ever so slightly,” she said. “But, the (map boundaries) are not off from what we saw 10 years ago.”
That was good news to Swiftmud representatives who hoped residents could validate the computer-generated maps.
Based on new data gathered from residents at the series of open houses, the flood plain boundaries could be adjusted. In some cases, Swiftmud will do further field investigations based on residents’ reports, and photographs.
Once public comments are reviewed, maps will be finalized and presented to the water district’s governing board for approval.
The information isn’t currently being incorporated into the Federal Emergency Management Agency Digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps. That could happen, however, at a later date.
Published November 22, 2017