In response to Assistant County Administrator Vince Bonvento’s letter published in the Town-Crier on Feb. 22, he is correct that the Palm Beach County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) is not responsible for drainage in The Acreage. Unfortunately, the word drainage, with a red strike-out line through it, appeared in the final copy of the “Acreage Flooding And Tropical Storm Isaac” full-page ad that was published on Feb. 8. The paragraph referred only to Commissioner [Shelley] Vana’s statement that the county was remiss in turning down the Indian Trail Improvement District’s (ITID) initial request for relief during the storm, referring to the delay in installing barricades on flooded roads and canals over their banks. Is Mr. Bonvento telling us that Commissioner Vana’s statement was incorrect?
There was a general state of emergency issued in anticipation of Tropical Storm Isaac. However the Palm Beach County Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan (CEMP) http://www.pbcgov.com/dem/sections/planning/cemp.htm (page 95) tasks the EOC with the responsibility of escalating an emergency event when the conditions change, and making appropriate notifications in accordance with flood hazard specific notification guidelines to agencies who may become involve in the flood event, should it escalate. After Isaac, Michelle Damone, the former ITID president, said “Nobody recognized that we were flooded to the degree we were. We were reaching out, begging for assistance.” (Town-Crier, Sept. 14, 2012) Mr. Bonvento’s letter indicates that the EOC “did everything they could to help.” Did Ms. Damone or someone from the ITID “reach out” to the EOC and when?
After the storm, there were several informational meetings held by the involved governing agencies. Those meetings left residents with more questions than answers. What help was asked for, when was it asked for and by whom, and how long did it take to respond? Why was there such a long delay in the water receding from The Acreage when other areas with much lower elevations, such as the Village of Royal Palm Beach, were dry on Monday, Aug. 27, per Village Manager Ray Liggins (Town-Crier, Sept. 7, 2012)? This doesn’t make any sense, considering we know that The Acreage has some of the highest elevations in the county at 18 to 22 feet above sea level. Who didn’t do enough for The Acreage quickly enough, and why? Shouldn’t the EOC seek answers to these questions?
As the lead agency in the CEMP, the EOC is responsible for coordinating responses for any and all emergencies within the county boundaries. Understanding what occurred during an actual emergency is necessary in order to limit future losses and waste of tax dollars, and to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public.
Lastly, the most important point of the ad was to draw attention to the drastic need for the South Florida Water Management District to change the unfair, outdated ITID storm water drainage permit. ITID and The Acreage must be granted sufficient and fair increases in pre-storm draw down and peak emergency drainage to ensure that The Acreage will never again experience the “avoidable” flooding that occurred with Tropical Storm Isaac.