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Flood-mitigation info sessions to begin Thursday

January 24, 2019
By MEGHAN BRADBURY ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

A reminder: Lee County will hold three informational meetings for Phase 3 of its post-Hurricane Irma flood-mitigation efforts.

The meetings begin Thursday, with the first set for 4 to 6 p.m. at Wa-Ke Hatchee Recreation Center, 16760 Bass Road, Fort Myers.

The second is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 31, at the Bonita Springs Library, 26876 Pine Ave., Bonita Springs, with the final session to be held Thursday, Feb. 7, at Veterans Park Recreation Center, 55 Homestead Road South here in Lehigh..

"The meetings are opportunities for the public to become aware of the work efforts under way," Lee County Natural Resources Director Roland Ottolini said. "Staff and consultants will be available to address questions. We will also have our new website,, on a computer and will be able to show attendees how they can use the website to follow the county's progress and obtain updates on Phase 3 in real time."

The third phase includes the necessary evaluation to identify long-term capital projects to relieve flooding.

"This requires collecting additional data and survey information where needed and developing computer models that stimulate the region's response to rainfall. Once a model is developed that accurately depicts existing conditions, proposed projects can be inserted into the model to see how well they perform in reducing the level and duration of flooding," Ottolini said. "The study will take approximately one year to complete. In the meantime, the county continues to use its resources to further clear obstructed waterways."

Phase 3 is being conducted by local engineering firms and Lee County Natural Resources. The firms were selected through a procurement process with Lee Board of County Commissioners approval.

Ottolini said numerous areas throughout Lee County were impacted by the rainfall and subsequent flooding from the August 2017 rain event and Hurricane Irma.

"Those hit the hardest include the communities of Lehigh Acres, the Villas, Island Park and Bonita Springs," he said. "The study is comprehensive in nature and covers most of Lee County south of the Caloosahatchee River. Those areas north of the Caloosahatchee were studied more recently and the studies remain valid today."

The first phase involved the initial post-storm clearing of blocked waterways where accessible, Ottolini said, adding that most of the work fell under the FEMA deadline of March 2018.

"Phase 2 efforts involved more in-depth field investigation and identified areas that needed additional attention," he said. "Phase 2 reports documented obstructions of water flow, such as blocked culverts, downed or overgrown vegetation, and sediment build-up. Information collected included type of obstruction, specific location, size of issue and photos. Additionally, the reports included overall observations, recommendations and ideas for long-term efforts to relieve flooding."

The second phase also included the continued removal of blockages by the Lee County Department of Transportation and contractor workforces. Grants from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, a division of USDA, were obtained by the county to continue the efforts.

"Lee County, like many other Southwest Florida communities, is subject to tropical storms and commonly receives high intensity rainfall," Ottolini said. "Flooding is a natural occurrence. The ability to relive flood waters is limited due to the very flat terrain of our area. Low-lying areas will typically fill up in the rainy season and localized flooding can be expected in our neighborhoods almost annually. Our focus will be to recognize the threats to homes so that we can better plan for public safety."

More meetings will be planned this year before the study concludes.

Lee Board of County Commissioners and county staff efforts from the past year include:

- Sending regular e-blast communications on flood-mitigation efforts, which will now be replaced by the soon-to-be launched website;

- Creating a request-for-action process in which individual flooding situations were tracked;

- Continuing to clean, assess and maintain flow ways, ditches and canals;

- Attending community and neighborhood meetings to garner feedback;

- Approving an interlocal agreement with the South Florida Water Management District that helps the county and district join forces on flood-mitigation efforts. Specifically, the agreement had the district take over management and maintenance of 10 natural flow ways and waterbodies;

- Obtaining a U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service grant for sediment and debris removal in areas such at Ten Mile Canal;

- Working with the East Mullock Drainage District to remove debris from ditches from the San Carlos Park area; and,

- Dedicating a Lee Department of Transportation operations crew for clearing drain impediments in The Villas.

Those who need to request an auxiliary aid, or service for effective communication, or a reasonable modification to participate in meetings, can contact Joan LaGuardia at 239-533-2314, Florida Relay Service 711, or

The request should be made at least five business days in advance of the meeting and the accommodation will be provided at no cost.



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