City misrepresented risk of flooding and they are doing it again

City Manager John Regan recently told City Commissioners that thirty-two residential structures suffered some type of flooding damage during Hurricane Dorian.  There was flooding throughout St. Augustine; but, most of the damage occurred in South Davis Shores where Regan and Commissioner Leanna Freeman reside.

Historic City News readers will remember when Regan through his marionette, Public Works Director Mike Cullum, argued that buying property at 91-93 Coquina Avenue for a park, then building a “berm”, would alleviate flooding in South Davis Shores as part of the City’s “Resiliency, Adaptation and Sustainability Program”. 

During the brush with Hurricane Dorian, the South Davis Shores neighborhood was hit harder than anywhere else in the city.  Nothing has been done to build the promised berm.  The berm will do nothing to protect the other parts of South Davis Shores along Quarry Creek from flooding during major storms.

Instead, the city’s existing system collects stormwater in the streets through a drainage swale or inlet when it rains. Under low tide conditions, gravity pulls that stormwater through drainage pipes and out into the Matanzas River or Salt Run.  But during high tide events, ocean water can make its way up the pipes and into the streets, causing floods.  If adverse weather conditions occur at the same time as one of these tidal flooding events, the street flooding conditions are made significantly worse.

During tropical storms, winds push tide water farther up into the storm water collection system, which leads to more extensive road flooding. If it rains, stormwater can’t gravity drain until the tide falls, so it becomes trapped in the streets, worsening flood conditions.

To address these issues, the City has begun installing what are known as tide check valves. These valves allow stormwater to drain out under low tide conditions, just like the city’s current drainage system, but during high tide these valves prevent ocean water from backing up into the stormwater pipe network.

Not surprisingly, of the 31 tide-check valves installed, Davis Shores was the first place where they were installed.

This is the lot at 91 Coquina Avenue in South Davis Shores. You can see the water flowing over the lot and onto the street. Historic City News videographer Bruce Bates

Regan and Cullum continue to tap dance around the truth, claiming that tidal flooding has essentially been eliminated in areas where these valves have been installed. They even claim that the valves offered some flood protection during Hurricane Dorian; despite all evidence to the contrary.

Video shows the adjacent channel and outfall pipe overflowing onto Coquina Avenue, across the street from the lift station at 91-93 Coquina Avenue. Historic City News videographer Bruce Bates

“The thirty-one tide check valves that we installed city wide, most performed as designed. We had a couple that did not, and they’ll be inspected,” Regan recently told City Commissioners.  “For a low storm like Dorian, they do what they’re designed for.  The North Davis Shores valves that we installed worked very well.”

The truth is, the city’s “flood mitigation” claim was just a cover story to get the City Commission to spend one half million dollars in city emergency reserve funds to create a park in one commissioner’s neighborhood. The fact that the city’s berm would make no real difference during a serious storm was well identified during the commission debate earlier this year. It just didn’t matter.