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Subdivision demands help

The Arrowhead subdivision is demanding large-scale assistance from the Southwest Florida Water Management District, which many residents blame for exacerbating the area's flooding crisis.

At a Friday morning meeting with James Brooks, Swiftmud's governmental affairs coordinator, Arrowhead resident Sonny Groves said the district should be willing to finance the purchase of 700-800 truckloads of road material, mentioning $100,000 in assistance as the target.

Just a week ago, Groves met with top district officials in Brooksville and requested that same amount. "Basically, all we need from you is money for road material," said Groves.

The subdivision wants material to form a protective coat over the dirt fill that is being used to reconstruct the badly eroded roads, he said. Although limestone or oil coatings were mentioned as possibilities, asphalt chippings are preferred, he said.

The roads need fast help, Groves said, not just to accommodate emergency, trash and mail service but to allow easier passage for construction vehicles as residents start repairing their properties.

Brooks made it clear that district officials were interested in helping Arrowhead. However, he said any help could take time and would have to be coordinated through Citrus County.

Major expenditures would have to be approved by the Withlacoochee River Basin Board, Brooks added. Although the board could call an emergency session, the next regularly scheduled meeting is not until June 9, he added.

Swiftmud manages the Tsala Apopka Outfall Canal and the Tsala Apopka Lake Chain for the Army Corps of Engineers. Groves contends roads and other property in Arrowhead were damaged, in part, by Swiftmud's water management policies.

Swiftmud allowed lake levels to rise above normal to prevent water from entering Arrowhead, but once properties around the Hernando Pool began to flood, the the corps ordered the district to begin a measured release through the outfall canal.

Much of that water found its way into Arrowhead, where flood levels were gradually going down. Coupled with new rainfall, the opening of the outfall canal helped create a second, more severe, wave of flooding.

After the meeting, Groves said residents are considering filing a class-action lawsuit against Swiftmud and the corps for poor supervision of the district. Inverness lawyer Spike Fitzpatrick acknowledged several weeks ago that he was working on developing a potential case with Arrowhead residents.

"They (Swiftmud) assured us we would not be flooded any worse than we were before," Groves said.

Swiftmud spokesman Mike Molligan said the district shouldn't be blamed.

"The flooding of Arrowhead occurred because of overflowing of the river," Molligan said. "The lakes were managed according to scheduling with the corps. They (the corps) knew what we were doing. We held the water in the lakes longer that we would have because of Arrowhead."

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