Communities Can Solve Water Woes Better By Working Together

Our area has seen more rain this year than it has going back a number of years. Though there are some advantages to this — green foliage and fewer concerns about water shortages — there are also drawbacks. The abundance of water in our area in the last few years has caused concerns of flooding, water storage and how to manage water in our area.

The issue has landed our communities on the map — the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) flood map, that is. Many of our communities could soon be declared flood zones, collectively costing residents millions of dollars in required flood insurance. We believe it is crucial that the western communities come together to work on a regional strategy for water management and alleviate flooding concerns.

Each community has its own needs and strategies in dealing with excess water. This is further complicated by the South Florida Water Management District, which controls how much water a community can drain and where that water can go. This structure puts communities at risk of flooding, with each community working independently.

But several area leaders believe the answer is to work together to move water out of our area, and the Town-Crier agrees.

County Commissioner Jess Santamaria recently announced that he is putting together a task force of residents and water experts from across the county to tackle the issue, and the Western Communities Council has expressed interest in a similar venture aimed at changing the FEMA maps.

Having a united front will also help us sway entities like the SWFMD and FEMA — which could be very important in the near future. And having allies not only on regional water issues, but also other local issues can be beneficial to the entire area.

It is crucial that area leaders and water experts sit down and make a plan to weather all storms. Though we may not be able to stop a storm, we can work together to mitigate its effects.

When Tropical Storm Isaac hit, some areas of the western communities — those with more drainage rights — were high and dry, while others saw residents trapped in their homes for days. Though few houses flooded in the storm, having a regional strategy that allowed our communities to work together to drain water might have helped everyone.

Unfortunately, water management is both a logistical and bureaucratic system with a lot of moving parts. If we can get those parts in synch, drafting a regional strategy, we can help to alleviate some confusion.

And the time to do it is now — well before a disaster hits. What happened during Tropical Storm Isaac might have been disastrous had the J.W. Corbett Wildlife Management Area berm not held up. Luckily, the state has set money toward reinforcing the berm to avoid a future disaster, but there could still be unforeseen issues in the future that could continue to put our communities at risk.

No matter what issue crops up, we can weather it better together.