Daytona Beach after Hurricane Ian. (Photo by City of Daytona).

FL - Daytona Beach getting major federal assist with flooding problem

DAYTONA BEACH — Imagine living in a low-lying neighborhood so flood-prone that you have to worry about barricading your home with sandbags and fleeing for higher ground every time there's a tropical storm – or even just really heavy rainfall – headed your way.

For many decades, that's been the anxiety-filled reality for thousands of people who live between Nova Road and the Halifax River.

On Wednesday night, just five months after dozens of those urban core residents had to be rescued out of their homes as Tropical Storm Ian blasted through the city, some of the best possible news was announced.

Congress has approved spending $3 million to fully fund a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works study that will jumpstart planning and design for critical stormwater and flood protection projects in Daytona Beach.

After Hurricane Ian swept through Florida in late September, Daytona Beach's Midtown neighborhood was inundated with floodwater that rose as high as five feet in some areas of the community between Nova Road and Ridgewood Avenue. Pictured is Lockhart Street off of Kottle Circle as it looked the day Ian finally moved off shore.

The even better news is the approval for that funding and the study all but guarantees there will be tens of millions of dollars more coming out of Washington, D.C., for projects that will help restore and rebuild Daytona Beach's infrastructure to mitigate the impacts of flooding.

After Mayor Derrick Henry received a phone call Tuesday letting him know the long-hoped-for flooding study was finally going to be tackled, and at no cost to the city, he said he closed his office door, prayed for a few minutes and shed a couple tears as he thanked God.

Henry said the study and flood prevention projects will be "transformational" for Daytona Beach.

"This is probably the most important thing that has ever come from this commission," the mayor said at Wednesday's City Commission meeting.

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Republican U.S. Rep. Michael Waltz, who has been battling to get the study funding lined up for years, got the honor of being the first to let everyone at the City Hall meeting know that relief is on the horizon.

"Hurricanes Ian and Nicole were devastating to Florida's coastal infrastructure from our beaches and dunes to our coastal armoring," said Waltz, who spoke from Washington, D.C., via a Zoom link during the meeting. "Northeast Florida has been left vulnerable and unprotected. To help address these damages head on, I was proud to secure this funding and begin the process to rebuild our stormwater and flooding infrastructure."

'We just didn't take no for an answer'

Daytona Beach, state and federal leaders have been trying for 15 years to line up funding for an Army Corps of Engineers flood mitigation study. When Gov. Ron DeSantis represented Florida's 6th congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2013 to 2018, he also got in the fight.

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