The Polk County Board of County Commissioners has approved a plan outlined by Roads and Drainage engineer Jay Jarvis that will help alleviate troublesome flooding around Crooked Lake near Babson Park.

Jarvis told commissioners last week there were citizen and Southwest Florida Water Management District reports that the flooding was becoming an issue, in light of the heavy rains that have inundated Polk this summer.

The solution, according to Jarvis, is to clear existing canals and weirs of overgrowth and debris so water can resume flow — but the county doesn’t own the land or have easements to allow maintenance crews access to the areas.

Jarvis said the county had surveyed the property from the air and could see that the canals and weirs were contributing to the water accumulation restricting drainage. He added that the last time the interconnecting canals and weirs had been cleaned was more than a decade ago following a series of hurricanes that criss-crossed the county.

“But we don’t have easements which legally allow us to send our crews in there to clean it out,” he explained. “and the property owners won’t grant us access easements without payment.”

Commissioners asked County Attorney Michael Craig if the board couldn’t declare a “state of emergency” to gain access. The attorney said that only the governor could declare a state of emergency, and county crews could be cited for trespassing if they went on property without permission from the landowner or an easement.

“We need to do something or we’re going to have water over U.S. 27,” said Commissioner Rick Wilson, in whose district the flooded properties lie.

On Tuesday, Jarvis said he had contacted the four property owners about temporary access and was successful in obtaining entry permission, but the fourth landowner had not been reached. He was told by board members to try and reach the fourth owner so the clearing can get underway.

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