How Escambia Can Pay for Flood Projects
Following the money to find easy flood fixes.
The same revenue streams that let county officials pour millions into roads could offer a similar boost to flood prevention. And yet…
They’ve let a massive backlog of stormwater maintenance pile up, underfunding and understaffing the team responsible for catching up.
19 of 179 staff in Public Works are in the flood division vs. nearly 100 in road maintenance.
Only 23% of revenues from a local sales tax intended to fund public infrastructure go to flood protection.
Hurricane Sally hammered Escambia County with over $300 million in property damage, forcing hundreds of residents out of their homes.
One family pleaded for the county’s help after a stormwater pond overflowed, flooding their home with 2 feet of water:
“This was supposed to be the house our 8-year old daughter grows up in, and we retire in,” the family said in an email to the county, according to Pensacola News Journal.
“There was nothing we could do… We had to leave in the middle of the night in hurricane-force winds and flooding roads... We need help!"
That’s just a taste of over 1,500 emails the county got in Sally’s wake. Months later, many residents were still waiting on repairs, unable to move back home.
The plan will make it easier for officials to lower the level of the lake, taking hundreds of homes out of harm’s way — a dent in the county’s total backlog, but a gamechanger for this neighborhood.
There are hundreds more unfunded drainage projects across every district in the county, many as feasible and affordable as Lake Charlene’s.
Take Mariners Village, where a proposed $3.4 million project from the 2015 agenda would restore the nearby stream and wetland and construct a stormwater pond.
🔍 See the projects left for each district and what funding them could do for Escambia.
Many Escambia homes were built before we knew where it would flood, or where outdated FEMA maps said it shouldn’t flood and got it wrong.
“Buyouts” let owners sell their homes to the government, preventing repeated repairs and the need to find a buyer for a flood-prone home.
Buyouts today are slow, inflexible and reactive.
Most take over 5 years to get funded.
To qualify for federal money, a house must appear in a floodplain as defined by FEMA’s bad maps, excluding hundreds of thousands of homes we now know are at risk.
Almost all federal funding comes after the flood, forcing homeowners to live through a disaster before they can get help.
County officials could fund buyouts directly, moving faster and helping homeowners relocate before the next flood, not after.
Floridians want better flood protection, according to a poll conducted by Flood Defenders.
52% expressed concerns about flooding
68% want their local city and county government to act
55% want comprehensive policy or legislation
45%, a plurality, said flooding is a problem and not enough action is being taken