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Tradewinds Subdivision on Sanibel plagued with flooding over the years

By Staff | Jan 27, 2016

The view of Jamaica Drive, which is a part of the Tradewinds of Sanibel Subvision. The street was flooded after the rains of Jan. 16-17, and has been flooded on occasion over the course of the last decade, according to longtime residents of the subdivision. PHOTO PROVIDED

There were more than several areas on Sanibel which were under water after the heavy rains of Jan. 15-16, but in the Tradewinds Subdivision neighborhood, it’s become a persistent hinderance.

The ditches and roads still held up to six to 10 inches of standing water Tuesday afternoon, a site which has been far too common the last decade, said Tradewinds residents John Raffensperger and Jim McNulty, who is the subdivision association’s president.

“There are at least 40 homes which are affected by the flooding, with anywhere from eight to 10 inches of water through the flooding area,” McNulty said. “Neighbors have to walk out in boots just to get to their mailboxes.”

With the Tradewinds Subdivision being constructed pre-Sanibel incorporation days, development around the neighborhood has created a bowl-like condition, making it for the water to not drain and end up standing stagnant for days.

That stagnant water also creates perfect breeding grounds for mosquitoes in the summer months, Raffensperger said.

With the water table only about three feet deep and the Gulf of Mexico only 300-feet away, those conditions also creates prime flooding conditions.

“We just need some sort of a drain,” McNulty said. “There is a tile system in the neighborhood which has five grates, but they don’t take any water in. Our problem is we are kind of low (in elevation) and the developments built around us, left us in a bowl.”

The neighborhood can take in an average amount of rain, but when that amount even goes a bit over average, flooding starts.

“One good rain, it usually goes away fast,” Raffensperger said. “But then the soil gets saturated and it stays. Any kind of rain now after we got (Jan. 16-17), will bring water up over the road again. Last summer, we had three times where everything in the area was flooded.

“I’ve lived here now for 15 years and we’ve had summers where flooding was bad and this year has been bad, because we are certainly getting a lot more rain than normal.”

The streets were forced to be closed due to water overrunning them Jan. 17, from all the way up Tahiti Drive and through Jamaica Drive.

With the abnormal high amounts of rain Sanibel is taking in this past year, flooding is becoming more prevalent around the island, especially in the areas which were built pre-incorporation days.

“We are seeing flooding conditions because we are seeing almost double amount of rain than the average,” said City Manager Judie Zimomra. “In the month of January, the average rainfall is two inches and since Jan. 2, we’ve already experienced 9.03 inches.”

Since the Tradewinds Subdivision was constructed before Sanibel was incorporated as a city, drainage of rainwater was piped out to the Gulf of Mexico. But that also allowed lawn fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides to go along with the draining water into the Gulf.

By the 1980’s, that kind of drainage was stopped and a tile system brought the rainwater to the nearby Sanibel River.

The drainage on Sanibel is monitored by a wier system. Drainage into the river depends on the amount of water being discharged from run-off, but also by the tides of the Gulf.

If the tides are coming in, that could in essence force water back up the tile system, thus resulting in water backing up the grates. To prevent that, the wier system shuts off the drainage tile system.

“Historically, the developments which have pre-incorporation drainage systems, contributes to flooding after having an extranorary amount of rainfall,” Zimomra said. “But that doesn’t mean the Tradewinds Subdivision doesn’t have a problem. That area is certainly on our radar screen. There are studies underway and we are documenting the conditions which are taking place out there.”

Zimomra said the City engineers and Public Works are doing elevations surveys and studies and the Tradewinds Subdividision is a part of the Island-Wide Watershed Management Plan.

The Public Works department also cleaned the culverts and drains of silt and build-up in August of 2015.

“The City did come in and clean the culverts, but that didn’t seem to help anything,” McNulty said.

The four inches of rain which fell on Sanibel Jan. 16-17, was much more than predicted and the tidal waters were also coming in, so some flooding did occur, despite the electronic monitoring by the wier system.

“No one predicted that much rain falling,” Zimomra said. “But the Tradewinds area is on our radar and we are monitoring what is happening there.”

There is no set time table when the surveys will be completed, and with the rains still falling this past weekend, flooding will remain an issue with the Tradewinds Subdivision.

“We just need some help out here,” McNulty said. “We need to get this rainwater out of here.”