Lutz flood victims wonder if county dropped the ball

Heavy equipment tears out fish barrier from Lake Cooper

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, FL (WFLA) – Hillsborough County crews finally showed up in Lutz.  Heavy equipment started clearing clogged canals, ripped out vegetation and tore down fish barriers, all restricting the flow of water.

Sandbags protect Bill Sennett's door from flood water
Sandbags protect Bill Sennett’s door from flood water

Storm runoff in the Lake Cooper area of Lutz is supposed to flow Lake Cooper to Strawberry Lake to Crystal Lake.  Ditches and culverts are designed to then carry the water away, but they are not.
“All of the ditches that lead out of here and let our water flow west and under dale mabry, they’re all grown up, with vegetation and debris,” homeowner Bill Sennett said.

Heavy equipment tears out fish barrier from Lake Cooper
Heavy equipment tears out fish barrier from Lake Cooper

The overgrowth is extreme.  8 On Your Side watched as county crews experienced difficulty even locating culverts. According to Bill Sennett who’s lived here for 40 years, it all comes down to one thing. “No maintenance, simple no maintenance,” he explained. As a result the water sits, and when it rains, it floods more homes and roads.

8 On Your Side asked Hillsborough Commissioner Victor Crist why the county had dropped the ball on maintenance. “It’s not dropped the ball on maintenance, it’s we have limited staff, we have limited resources, we’re coming out of a recession and we’ve tried to maximize the spreading of those funds and resources the best we could,” Crist said.

A Hillsborough county crew searches for a drainage pipe in weeds and vegetation
A Hillsborough county crew searches for a drainage pipe in weeds and vegetation

A week ago, 5th Street Southwest looked more like 5th Street Lake. The water is not moving, it’s just sitting, it’s not draining, it’s got no where to go.  This is Bill’s Sennett’s neighborhood.  He took us to his house.  It is here this 79 year old is waging a battle to stay above water.

“We’re putting it, the end off one day at a time.  A 3 inch rain, a thunderstorm, that storm that’s out in the ocean, if it comes in here we’re done,” Sennett added. Sand bags barricade his doors, sump pumps work constantly to keep water in his garage below the kitchen door.  Flooding contaminated his well. “All we’re asking is the county come up here and clean up this system to get this water out of here,” Bill said.

“We don’t have enough manpower to go out there and clean every ditch and every sump and every drain, so we’re working now with private contractors to assist us,” Commissioner Crist stated.
The county approved spending $5 million dollars to immediately hire contractors to help crews clear storm drains and ditches.

“Being flooded is one thing, being flooded for an extended period of time is devastating. And you know through personal experience, i understand, my heart goes out to these people,” Commissioner Crist said.   As their public servant I am doing everything legally and humanly possible to try to rectify these problems and to make these people whole, everything possible from including bucketing water myself.  We are trying our best to fix the problems that are out there.”

Heavy equipment tears out fish barrier from Lake Cooper
Heavy equipment tears out fish barrier from Lake Cooper
Fish barrier holds back water in Lake Cooper
Fish barrier holds back water in Lake Cooper
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