BROOKSVILLE — The need for drainage relief in portions of south Brooksville can be demonstrated in the old pictures of floods past, pictures of roads running like rivers and residents standing in homes with water up to their knees.
For several years, the county, the city and the Southwest Florida Water Management District have been paying for drainage projects in various parts of the community, following a detailed drainage improvement plan.
With recent approval of the Hernando County Commission, construction on the final phase of that group of projects is expected to begin this fall in an area off Josephine Street, south of Dr. M.L. King Jr. Boulevard. When the work is finished, the drainage system is expected to have removed 64 parcels of land from the floodplain, including homes both in the city and in the county.
To inform the community about what will happen and gather comments, the county's Public Works Department is sponsoring a public meeting at 3 p.m. April 27 at the Hernando County Sheriff's South Brooksville Community Center on Dr. M.L. King Jr. Boulevard.
In separate appearances before both the County Commission and the Brooksville City Council, county storm water engineer Clay Black gave a recap of recent south Brooksville drainage improvements and an update on the newest project.
Black sought and got commission approval for the Josephine Street drainage project. The county dedicated $175,000 from funds gathered through the property tax dedicated to storm-water projects, and Swiftmud matched with $175,000.
The plan is to replace a current drainage ditch off Josephine, on private property, with a new ditch on county property that will drain into a low area that will be bermed and where water will be stored. During storms, the low area will drain downhill into another section of the storm-water drainage system, a ditch that runs along Emerson Road and beneath the State Road 50 truck bypass that was cleared of debris and finished in February.
Sediment, trash and brush about 3 feet deep along that ditch had to be removed, and Swiftmud granted permission with the caveat that the county would bring the ditch back to where it had been before. Black noted to commissioners that the area hadn't been cleaned since 1970, impeding water flow.
Also in February, the county completed what is known as the Russell Street Park drainage project near the city's Department of Public Works and the old train depot. That site was designed to store approximately 15 feet of water.
"We have a fully functional system there right now,'' Black told commissioners.
Another project that was part of the plan was a drainage pond completed in 2014 at the site of the South Brooksville Community Center, on what is known as the Dauson property. That pond provides nearly 3.5 acres for storing storm water.
The city has also been sharing in the cost of projects, including providing properties and staging areas. In his discussion before City Council, Black noted that the city residents' contributions for the storm water tax had amounted to about $207,000 over the five years. But the benefit of the projects, including a city drainage area at the end of School Street, tops $2 million when property value increases and special future development credits earned through water quality improvements are considered.
Commissioners questioned how much water the system should hold and whether low-lying homes will be flood free. Black said the storm-water plan was designed based on a 100-year flood, so homes should be dry in lesser storms.
The problem, commission Chairman Wayne Dukes noted, is that the neighborhood is downhill. Brian Malmberg, assistant county administrator who oversees public works, said the community was nearly 200 feet in elevation below where the commission meets at the top of the hill in the Hernando County Government Center.
"This has been a very expensive project and a long project,'' Dukes said. "But it's working in the right direction, and I'm very pleased with that.''
Contact Barbara Behrendt at [email protected] or (352) 848-1434.