Lawmaker tours Ribault River to see how to minimize flooding

Homes still being repaired more than 1 year after Hurricane Irma

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Images of flooding from Hurricane Florida in North and South Carolina bring back memories of similar flooding just over a year ago in some Jacksonville neighborhoods -- including along the Ribault River in Northwest Jacksonville.

State Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, and state Rep. Tracie Davis, D-Jacksonville, joined others on a boat tour of the area flooded by Hurricane Irma last September. They were looking at ways that the water could be kept in the river and out of homes along Ken Knight Drive and the rest of the neighborhood.

Resident Alton Gordon said he and other neighbors are still making repairs.

"Water was up to here literally up to here," Gordon said. "(Water) was coming from all the way across the street and then (into) houses. I was helping people get stuff out of there."

Gibson said she was well aware of the issues, but wanted to see for herself what could be done to protect this neighborhood in the future. She and Davis were joined by a member of Sen. Bill Nelson’s office and the St. Johns Riverkeeper.

"To see whether it is 'a clog in the system' or see what needs to be done to dredge, to keep that from happening -- not (only) during the storm (but) if we just have heavy rains," Gibson said.

Because of new construction and areas that need to be cleaned and dredged, water has somewhere to go. The Riverkeeper and other environmentalists are exploring ideas of a natural or "living” shoreline instead of concrete bulkheads.  

"I think it’s obvious that this is a time that all hands need to be on deck," Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman said. "This is not something local government can handle. This something that state government can handle without the help of local government."

The Riverkeeper and state leaders hope to make recommendations that could help alleviate flooding in time for the Florida legislative session next March.

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