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Hurricane Michael Disaster Communities Get $111 Million For Infrastructure Projects

Gov. Ron DeSantis announces $111 million in long-term disaster recovery funds for infrastructure projects in 22 communities in the Panhandle on Thursday, May 6, 2021.
The Florida Channel
Gov. Ron DeSantis announces $111 million in long-term disaster recovery funds for infrastructure projects in 22 communities in the Panhandle on Thursday, May 6, 2021.

More than a dozen communities recovering from Hurricane Michael are getting another round of federal disaster relief funding to help make their stormwater, sewage and water infrastructure more resilient.

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced 22 communities would get roughly $111 million for infrastructure projects during a press conference in Panama City Beach on Thursday.

“We want to get this long-term resiliency funding out to Hurricane Michael-affected communities as quickly as possible,” DeSantis said. “Now these are not immediate response funds. They are designed to take a little longer to go because these projects are a little longer-lasting.”

Funding comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to the state’s Department of Economic Opportunity, which is in charge of distributing it to local communities in the form of grants. Cities and counties must apply for funds to finance specific projects.

The latest round of funding will largely fund new storm- and waste-water infrastructure. A few communities are getting funding to replace damaged public buildings.

Most of the funding will benefit communities in Bay County, where Michael made landfall.

“We want to rebuild after Hurricane Michael not just like we were previous to Michael, but the community of the future,” said State Rep. Jay Trumbull, R-Panama City, who joined DeSantis at the press conference. “And resources like this will allow us that opportunity.”

Here’s a breakdown of projects in the Panhandle that are receiving funding:

  • Bay County will get $1.3 million to fill and replace a stormwater drainage culvert on Redwood Avenue.
  • Apalachicola will get $3.8 million to fix damaged stormwater infrastructure.
  • Callaway will get $2.8 million to fix wastewater infrastructure after Hurricane Michael-caused deforestation affected filtration.
  • Chipley will get $2.9 million to upgrade the town’s stormwater drainage systems.
  • Cottondale will get 4.3 million to expand the Caney Stormwater Pond.
  • Lynn Haven will get $5.2 million to fix water, sewer, and stormwater lines along West 10th Street and repave the area’s roadways.
  • Marianna will get $11 million to restore and repair the city’s wastewater transmission system.
  • Mexico Beach will get $5 million for a sand-dredging and beach re-nourishment project.
  • Panama City Beach will receive $21 million to rebuild a pipe system that redirects stormwater from the beachfront out into the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Panama City will get almost $19 million to replace damaged sewer, stormwater and water lines.
  • Parker will get $763,454 to replace manholes, lift stations and other stormwater infrastructure.
  • Port St. Joe will get almost $10 million to repair to sewage pipes and manholes.
  • Springfield will get $3.1 million to build a retention pond.
  • Wewahitchka will get $884,085 to repair water lines damaged by Hurricane Michael.
  • Gadsden County will get $2.5 million to replace the Quincy’s main emergency medical services building, which was damaged during Hurricane Michael.
  • Gulf County will get $7 million to upgrade water system transmission lines and build a booster station, which is expected to reduce the county’s reliance on coastal water.
  • Jackson County will get $1.4 million to replace the Jackson County Correctional Facility’s water-damaged roof.
  • Esto will get $826,000 to revamp culverts and spillways and repave roads.
  • Malone will get $2 million to fix the town volunteer fire station.
  • Noma will get $752,705 to repair lift stations, the wastewater treatment plant and sewer-line.
  • Sneads will get almost $5 million to build new drainage piping, roadside ditches and a stormwater management facility.
  • Wakulla County will get $375,597 to move three lift stations’ control panels up to 21 feet above ground, in compliance with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) requirements.

Though Panama City Beach was spared widespread, significant damage during Hurricane Michael, the Category 5 storm caused beach erosion that’s contributed to periodic flooding in subsequent storms. That's why the city was awarded $21 million for the stormwater pipeline project, DeSantis said.

“Front Beach Road and the residential Lullwater community have been impacted the greatest by this erosion, as it caused the blockage and submersion of outfalls responsible for transporting stormwater from the area,” DeSantis said. “This is something that will help us prepare for future storms and also reduce post-disaster costs and losses.”

Dane Eagle, the executive director of the state Department of Economic Opportunity, promised additional funds will become available to local communities as federal dollars continue to get processed through the state.

Eagle also reminded residents who need help paying to rebuild or repair their storm-damaged homes that they may apply for assistance online through the Rebuild Florida program. “That’s the idea of these funds - it’s long term,” Eagle said. “We have six years to spend those funds.”

The program launched earlier this year after the state received $246 million from HUD to provide direct recovery assistance to residents in the 12 federally declared disaster counties in the Panhandle following Michael.

“Just having those funds transferred from Washington to Tallahassee doesn’t do any good for the community,” Eagle said. “It’s our job to get it out into the hands of the taxpayers where it’s going to do the most good.”

Valerie Crowder hosts and produces state and local newscasts during All Things Considered. Her reporting on local government and politics has received state and regional award recognition. She has also contributed stories to NPR newscasts.