One week after Matthew, SJRWMD looks back at impacts, forward to recovery

PALATKA, Fla., Oct. 14, 2016 -- Only a week ago, Hurricane Matthew skirted the east coast of Florida, causing severe flooding and damage from strong winds. Since then, the St. Johns River Water Management District has been working with local governments and other stakeholders in their recovery efforts by providing pumps and personnel to lower floodwaters and assess damage from the storm.

PALATKA, Fla., Oct. 14, 2016 — Only a week ago, Hurricane Matthew skirted the east coast of Florida, causing severe flooding and damage from strong winds. Since then, the St. Johns River Water Management District has been working with local governments and other stakeholders in their recovery efforts by providing pumps and personnel to lower floodwaters and assess damage from the storm.

“I’m very proud of district staff working in our communities and assisting local governments in their recovery,” said St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle. “We have been actively working with many partners – before the storm to ensure that communities were prepared, and after the storm as communities are cleaning up and getting back on their feet. We will continue to assist where we are needed, when we are needed.”

At the headwaters of the St. Johns River, the district’s Upper St. Johns River Basin Project protected western Brevard and Indian River counties from flooding during the hurricane. The storage capacity of the nearly 200,000-acre project is so vast that water levels never reached maximum elevations at any time during or following Hurricane Matthew. At no time was freshwater released from the project into the Indian River Lagoon via C-54 canal.

Along the hard-hit coastal areas of north Florida, district staff teamed up with local government staff in Flagler, Nassau, Putnam and St. Johns counties to assess damage, and the district provided pumps to local governments in Duval, St. Johns and Flagler counties to divert floodwaters.

Districtwide, the district authorized certain flood relief measures for local governments and property owners who need to pump or divert floodwaters. The Governing Board on Tuesday approved an emergency order that also gives permit holders additional time to comply with permit conditions that will come due after Oct. 5. The board’s action extends the duration of permits that expire between Oct. 5 and Nov. 2.

District land managers worked tirelessly to inspect and clear public lands and address safety hazards caused by the storm so recreational users could return. Of nearly 50 properties, four district conservation lands experienced significant damage in the hurricane and remain closed – Fort Drum Marsh Conservation Area in Indian River County, Moses Creek Conservation Area and Stokes Landing Conservation Area in St. Johns County and Pellicer Creek Conservation Area in Flagler County.

For updates, visit the district’s website, www.sjrwmd.com.