In Pasco, heavy rains leave a small nursery flooded

Mike Happ stands in the knee-deep pond that fills It’s Natures Way, the small nursery on U.S. 19 he owns and operates with his wife, Jean.

JODIE TILLMAN | Times

Mike Happ stands in the knee-deep pond that fills It’s Natures Way, the small nursery on U.S. 19 he owns and operates with his wife, Jean.

PORT RICHEY — This week's flooding ruined much of Mike and Jean Happ's inventory — without ever getting inside their building.

The Happs own It's Nature's Way nursery. Dozens of palm trees and other plants, along with the company's equipment, sit in the back part of the property, submerged in a pond that began forming Monday after a weekend of heavy rain.

The water kept getting higher with each rainfall. By Thursday afternoon, the water was almost flush with the bumper of a marooned pickup truck full of flowers. Knee-high boots were required to walk the outskirts of the new pond.

"I can't even tell you how many trees I have out there," Jean Happ said. "We haven't had a customer all week."

But the Happs' U.S. 19 nursery didn't get a lot of help from the county this week. Their livelihood may be in the yard, but a county pump is available only when flood waters seep into a building.

"He said, 'Is there water in your house?' I said 'no,' " Jean Happ recalled of a telephone conversation with a county stormwater engineer. "And he said we can't just send pumps out to everyone. It has to be in the house."

"We've got a lot of money out there," said Mike Happ, pointing toward the yard.

Pasco County spokesman Eric Keaton said county policy is that no property or structure will be pumped unless the entire property is at risk of total loss. Late Thursday afternoon he said the county's stormwater division was sending someone out to evaluate the scene.

The Happs say their property, located on the west side of U.S. 19 just north of Ranch Road, hasn't had any significant flooding in the three years they have owned it. In the past, they say, rainwater from a medical office to the south flowed under a fence and onto their property, sometimes leaving swampy patches. But most of the runoff typically kept flowing north.

Now, however, on the property to their north, a Homewood Suites hotel is under construction. The Happs wonder if the construction has blocked that historic flow, forcing the recent heavy rainfall to pool onto their property.

The civil engineering company working on that project did not return a phone message late Thursday afternoon. The project architect, Robert Resch III, noted that the hotel had jumped through a significant number of regulatory hoops to show that the building would not have an impact on neighbors.

"The site for this hotel has all internal draining," he said. "We're not allowed to let any water go off the site. Nobody is allowed to create problems for other people."

Flooding has been a problem this week elsewhere in west Pasco. Just across U.S. 19 from the nursery, floodwater coated the parking lot of a dentist's office and seeped inside the building. A number of nearby homes also got flooded.

Late Thursday, a county official dropped by the Happs' property. Jean Happ said the official took a look and decided they could use a pump. But not long after he left to get one, she said, he called back. All the pumps were being used elsewhere.

He did tell her, she said, that the county had checked with the Department of Transportation and the Happs had permission to pump the water into the drainage ditch running alongside the highway.

But they will need to rent their own pump.

Jodie Tillman can be reached at jtillman@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6247.

In Pasco, heavy rains leave a small nursery flooded 07/17/08 [Last modified: Thursday, July 17, 2008 9:15pm]

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