Callaway lacking ‘access points’ to storm ditches, new grant could help

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CALLAWAY, Fla. — The flooding events of this week have caused many residents to question if the storm drains are regularly cleaned.

“They just did what they could reach right there,” said Ronald Cowen, a resident on Olokee street, which experienced a heavy amount of flooding this week. “Back in there, there’s more trees and stuff that are down that have never been cleared out.”

Callaway’s City Manager, Ed Cook, said they are cleaned all the time.

“None of our storm ditches are clogged up to where they’re dammed,” he said.

However, there are many areas of the ditches where he says their equipment can’t reach.

“That is a big issue that we have here,” said Cook. “So many times, you’ll have a ditch that may run three blocks but there’s no access for us to get in to clean these ditches.”

But there may be a solution.

“N.R.C.S. has just recently granted us $3.2 million to clean out our ditches through the city,” said Cook.

He says this grant, from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, will be the first step to cleaning out these hard to reach spots, by helping them create more access points. It’ll also give them the funding to work on deepening and widening the ditches, so stormwater can flow better.

“As we continue to receive funding mechanisms and also our own tax dollars, we’re going to continue to address these issues and hopefully eliminate them in the long run,” said Cook.

Another issue contributing to the lack of access, he says, is that hundreds of the ditches exist on private property. In order to clean those, the city must get “rights of entry” from homeowners to work on their property.

Cook says the City of Callaway is currently in the process of mapping out the private ditches. He says they are looking to begin that project in September.

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