The Indian Trail Improvement District Board of Supervisors heard a barrage of complaints Wednesday from several dozen residents angry about flooding in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Isaac.
Flooding across the community kept residents of The Acreage without four-wheel drive vehicles or boats stranded in their homes for about a week until the waters finally receded enough for streets to be passable again.
Resident Anne Kuhl said she had a problem with some of the things she had been reading, such as Royal Palm Beach saying it had drained quickly.
“Why did they take two days to give us permission to drain?” Kuhl asked. “And why should we pay for a berm to keep Corbett water out of our area? We have to spend money to fix our drainage, not for a community center.”
Resident Randy Gunsen agreed that ITID should put its community center plans on hold and take care of drainage improvements first. That was a sentiment expressed by several speakers.
ITID President Michelle Damone pointed out that Royal Palm Beach was the first community to step up and give ITID emergency discharge rights. “They gave their reserve capacity to us and were the first to do that,” she said.
Damone also noted that ITID has received a letter from Gov. Rick Scott offering support from the state, asking the state, county and district to work together to come up with solutions.
Former ITID Supervisor Mike Erickson said that the flooding should be an eye-opener for the board. “The real problem was with South Florida Water Management and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,” Erickson said. “This was not your fault, but it will be your fault if you don’t take care of this.”
Longtime community activist Patricia Curry said she has lived in the area for 32 years and had never seen such community-wide flooding.
“A little blame needs to go all the way around,” Curry said. “I feel Indian Trail did not convey to the South Florida Water Management District how flooded we were. Royal Palm Beach roads were high and dry. I don’t know why we weren’t draining south.”
Damone replied that she did not sleep Sunday, Monday or Tuesday after the storm because she was trying to communicate to every agency she could that the district was flooding. “Nobody recognized that we were flooded to the degree we were,” she said. “We were reaching out, begging for assistance.”
Damone added that she believes The Acreage did not get the attention it deserved until Gov. Scott visited. “Help has been coming in since,” Damone said. “Every single one of us was requesting assistance.”
Robert Stevens of the neighboring Deer Run community asserted that water was flowing into his community from Indian Trail.
Stevens, who has served on Deer Run’s property owners’ association board for 15 years, said that during previous floods, water was coming in from Lion Country Safari and Palm Beach Aggregates, but this time, it was from The Acreage.
“This storm really flooded us,” he said. “We had swamp buggies rescuing horses. Water coming in from Indian Trail kept us flooded for 14 days. This needs to be addressed.”
Damone encouraged Stevens to come to a workshop Tuesday, Sept 18 from 5 to 7 p.m. to discuss the issue further.
Resident Sue Davie-Kunda said drainage should be based on need not on contracts. “If we’re flooded with three feet, we should be given priority,” she said. “It should not be based on who signed what contracts.”
Resident Diana Demarest urged more cooperation between ITID and the county.
“The county was clueless as to our condition,” she said. “I tried to give out as much credible information as possible.”
Demarest said she called the county’s emergency operations center to get supplies out to people stranded in their homes. “Her response was, “Aren’t you aware we have a pavilion at Acreage Community Park?’ My response was, ‘Aren’t you aware we need a sailboat to get out?” she recalled.
Demarest said she relied on Todd Bonlarron, the county’s intergovernmental coordinator, to coordinate relief efforts with ITID. “I told Todd we need to get the food to the people,” she said, noting that emergency responders did not become available until the Wednesday after the storm.
Sandra Love-Semande, a former ITID employee and supervisor, said she had never seen this type of flooding. “It’s a little ridiculous to only have a quarter-inch a day discharge,” she said. “I really want Acreage residents to stay on top of this. I don’t want to come to another meeting to get answers. It’s the same old status quo, and I’m getting tired of it.”
Love-Semande also questioned why the Corbett area is allowed to keep the water level dangerously high. “I know there have been talks and letters and meetings,” she said. “Someone needs to step up to the plate here.”
Damone said the board has written numerous letters to the state that Corbett is holding water levels too high. “We have been recording those levels in Corbett for a reason,” she said. “There is a water level issue in Corbett.”
Damone said that although she did not agree with everything that had been said that evening, she understood everyone’s anger and frustration. “Now is the time to move forward,” she said. “We need to unite together for additional discharge.”
Damone passed out a draft resolution to board members pledging that the board would work with other agencies, including the SFWMD and the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, to address long-term solutions. Supervisor Carol Jacobs made a motion to approve the resolution, which carried 5-0.
Supervisor Carlos Enriquez made a motion to delay construction of the community center until the board figures out what to do about infrastructure improvements. That motion also carried unanimously.
Damone also asked that resolutions be written thanking numerous agencies and property owners that allowed ITID emergency drainage onto their property or through their canals during the flood’s aftermath, including Royal Palm Beach, the SFWMD, the School District of Palm Beach County, GL Homes and Callery-Judge Grove.
Jacobs made a motion to have those resolutions written, which carried 5-0.