Orange Park moves closer to solving its flooding problems

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ORANGE PARK – The town has two options when it comes to fixing the flooding issues at Dudley Branch and Johnson Slough. While both are costly, one is nearly half the cost.

The Town of Orange Park has been working toward fixing its decades-long flooding issues that came to a head with 2017 Hurricane Irma. It hired engineering group Jones Edmunds to create a stormwater management plan and water flow model and with assessments behind them, it’s time for the town to move forward with the work.

“We’ve been talking about this since Irma,” Jones Edmunds Vice President and Managing Director Brian Icerman said. “We wanted to make sure that we had things as close to ready as we could so that we could hit the ground running at the end of this fiscal year or at the start of the next.”

Icerman said the main goals for Orange Park flood improvements are to remove roadway flooding at depths greater than half a food during any given 25-year event and to remove flooding at depths greater than a foot on roads that provide access to critical facilities like hospitals and fire stations during a 100-year flood.

He also said their plans include the goal of removing building flooding above finished floor elevations during a 100-year flood.

“We want to consider the 50-year sea level rise projection as well during all of this,” Icerman said.

That amounted to more than two dozen homes removed from 100-year flood dangers, maintained access to critical facilities in a 100 year flood, maintained access to five residential locations with single point access points in a 100-year flood and a removal of roadway flooding at depths greater than half a food in a 25-year event throughout Orange Park.

Jones Edmunds Engineer Jarrod Hirneise said the near-term projects will focus on Dudley Branch and Johnson Slough, two of the areas in Orange Park arguably the most problematic when it comes to stormwater.

The proposed improvements of these areas include fixes to Nelson Drive and Plainfield Avenue with two possible alternatives. The first has an estimated cost of $1.5 to $2 million and consists of three projects: a Carnes Street extension and improved culvert capacity, a Nelson Drive South improvement and a third that would see Nelson Drive and Plainfield Avenue at the same elevation.

The second alternative sees the town remove sections of Nelson Drive and Plainfield Avenue that cut through low-lying areas of Johnson Slough.

“This would return this portion of the road to the natural state and allow water to freely flow through there,” Hirneise said. “Obviously, the drawback to this would be reducing the transportation ability through this area.”

This project has an estimated cost of $500,000 to $800,000.

Icerman said these projects and other projects like improvements to local ponds are all doable within a five-year timeline. He said the town has grant options when it comes to funding the projects and doesn't expect the town to pay for everything out of their own pocket.

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