ORANGE PARK – Following an extensive water flow model study of the town, the council is moving forward with three projects over the next few years, with further plans down the road.
Following the devastation of Hurricane Irma in 2017, Orange Park eventually commissioned Jacksonville-based engineering agency Jones-Edmunds to create a flow model of the town to help understand how the town could prevent the same kind of damage in the future. Three areas of Orange Park will be focused based on the results of the flow model: the Bellair neighborhood and along Gano Avenue, Mount Street, Clinton Drive and Stowe Avenue, and Dudley Branch and Johnson Slough.
“We selected these three areas based on the level of service needed and the project schedules and grants already on the way,” Jones-Edmunds Vice President and Managing Director Brian Icerman said. “(These are) the low-hanging fruit to chip off.”
Icerman stressed that this doesn’t mean the town doesn’t have stormwater problems elsewhere but that these three areas of Orange Park are the areas Jones-Edmunds believes it would be best to spend money on over the next few years.
As the projects continue along, additional projects can be added to the capital improvement plan.
Each of the three areas had significant flooding issues. In the Bellair neighborhood along Gano Avenue, the main problem is a ditch that runs north. A portion of this ditch is maintained by the town and a portion of it is maintained by the county. Because of this, a team effort would need to be made to solve this problem.
Jarrod Hirneise of Jones-Edmunds said that as this area stands, something as small as an annual event, which is a storm with conditions that can be expected annually, presents flooding and in a 100-year event, which Irma was classified as, structure flooding will occur. Within Jones-Edmunds’ grading scale, this area is a D and E level of service.
“These are the two worst grades that can be assigned,” Hirneise said.
The second area, which is Mound Street, Clinton Drive and Stowe Avenue, sees roadway flooding in an annual event. Upsizing the existing pipes is what Jones-Edmunds recommended to alleviate the persistent flooding.
The third area of Dudley Branch and Johnson Slough is also subject to regular roadway flooding during annual events. Similar to the second area, this third area experiences flooding due to low-lying roads and undersized pipes.
The town council didn’t formally vote during the special meeting held Tuesday, Oct. 29, but they gave direction to Town Manager Sarah Campbell to continue these three projects and pursue an updated survey of the eastern portion of Johnson Slough.
“We’re really thankful for the work Jones-Edmunds has done on this,” Campbell said. “Certainly it’s the first time that we’ve had a comprehensive assessment of both all that we have and the capacity of what we have. The maintenance program is in place. We’ve hired the crew, we’ve bought the equipment and they are working on this now to develop our long-term capital improvement plan.
“There is certainly more work than we have funds, which is always the case, but I think leveraging what we have with grants and focusing on...determining the improvements we can make in stormwater to ensure we have system-wide benefits felt by all.”