PASCO COUNTY, FL (WFLA) – Thousand Oaks does not sit in a flood plain, but people living in that Trinity subdivision in Pasco County need flood insurance. Despite government studies and band-aid projects that have cost taxpayers millions, neither Pasco nor the Southwest Florida Water Management District can keep the area from flooding.
“We didn’t cause the problem, this is a man made problem,” said Thousand Oaks 6 through 9 Home Owners Association president Cortney King. King points out his neighborhood was not a flood zone before the area was developed in 2003. When heavy rain comes there is no where for water coming from as far away as Gunn Highway to go, so neighborhoods flood, again and again. “We trusted the county when we bought our home. Again, it was in a flood zone x. They had reviewed, the engineer’s plan, and determined that was good engineering, and unfortunately it wasn’t,” homeowner Dawn Chiarenza stated.
King acknowledges Pasco and the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) have taken steps to address drainage problems. He wonders how Pasco approved a permit to allow a house down the road from him to be built below street level. He also wants to know if and why SWFWMD allowed the developer to build Thousand Oaks 6 to 12 inches below flood level. “I don’t know what would cause a compromise of this sort,” King added.
“Well the Thousand Oaks property, the way I understand it, is they had their own flood maps when their developer came in,” Pasco County spokesperson Doug Tobin said. Tobin showed 8 On Your Side several projects on which the county has spent millions to help resolve the issue. One involved dredging a wetland to allow for greater water flow. On Persea Court, Tobin pointed out a design flaw is preventing water from draining quickly, so the county is using a pump to help lower water levels.
Tobin admits these are band-aid solutions and much more work needs to be done. Pasco and SWFWMD are involved in a joint study to identify a permanent fix, but that could be up to 5 years out. Tobin feels the time for blame is past, and suggests all parties work toward a solution.
“Staff from our Regulatory Division have been responding to flooding complaints in Trinity Oaks, Thousand Oaks, Oak Ridge, Little Road and surrounding areas and have been conducting site inspections, collecting high water marks for use with our flood model, meeting with property owners, and observing Pasco County’s operation of the Duck Slough BMP structures. The District is also the lead on a modeling project for the area that will be done spring 2016,” SWFWMD public information officer Susanna Martinez Tarokh wrote in an email. “Our staff will continue to work with Pasco County representatives and have provided the County the use of two District pumps as they have requested.”
But Trinity Oaks Home Owners Association president Ron Levi notes, that is easy when someone else’s neighborhood is flooding. He claims 6 home owners told him they are moving out after this last rain event, because they are fed up with the flooding. King points out rain events like the Tampa Bay area experienced during the past week are occuring more frequently. He said Pasco County and SWFWMD have figured out how to prevent flooding in other areas, and asks why they haven’t figured out how to unflood, his neighborhood.
They key, he believes, is stopping the water from crossing Little road before it gets to Thousand Oaks. Levi wants a building moratorium in Trinity until the county and SWFWMD can stop the flooding.
“This community is just not going to tolerate it anymore, and I’m looking into taking a lawsuit out now trying to stop them from building, til we fix this problem,” Levi said.