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Stormwater Symposium Addresses Flooding Yr Ender

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Pensacola News Journal
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With the flooding of late April still fresh on everyone’s minds, the City of Pensacola and Escambia County Commission hosted a stormwater symposium in mid-July, with both promising to cooperate on ways to control flooding.

Torrential rainfall in late April totaled 27 inches in the Pensacola area in a 24-hour period. The resultant flood caused massive damage to roadways – including four parts of Scenic Highway that were washed out. Flooding also swamped some businesses downtown.

In the City of Pensacola’s presentation, City Administrator Colleen Castille said engineering and drainage impact studies now underway were concentrating on the areas hit the hardest. County Administrator Jack Brown delivered Escambia’s presentation, which centered around a process he called “sustainable drainage.”

The main speaker for the event was David Waggonner – a New Orleans-based architect and expert on flood control. During his 15-minute address, Waggonner told the gathering that the leadership roles for officials in both northwest Florida and statewide are “pretty obvious.”

Waggonner conceded that money will have to be spent towards mitigating any future problems with stormwater runoff. One question was: from where would the money come? Other questions deal with how to address individual projects, such as the century-old pipes in some locations.

The Escambia County Commission is involved with organizing a team of experts – including those from a couple of state agencies – to work on developing upgrades in flood control. Commissioner Gene Valentino said the work should be aimed at solving stormwater problems for a very long time, and preferably for all time. And he added that it would be expensive -- which is why the feds need to play a role.

Stormwater remedies have included additional pumps and pipes, along with retention ponds such as Admiral Mason Park downtown. And Mayor Ashton Hayward says similar projects are underway.

Flood expert David Waggonner, on the other hand, favors creations of greener methods, such as canals that imitate creeks that were paved over, and landscaping that slows the flow of excess water until it’s naturally absorbed.