US Army Corps of Engineers tours flood-ravaged Astor looking for solutions

$95,000 study will look at flood prevention techniques

ASTOR, Fla. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers toured the town of Astor by land and water this week to find ways to prevent the area from future floods.

“You get a very unique perspective when you’re on the boat and on the river versus driving,” Lake County Deputy Emergency Manager Nicholas Gerth said.

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Lake County was one of a handful of other agencies that joined USACE’s Silver Jackets division on the tour. The Florida Department of Emergency Management and the St. Johns River Water Management District also accompanied researchers.

“We’re going to be looking at what areas were impacted, where did we have inundation along the river, what areas received more impacts and less impacts,” Gerth said. “What are the differences in those areas?”

Lake County Sheriff's Office boats carry a group of emergency management officials as they tour the St. Johns River near Astor. (Copyright 2022 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

Gerth said residents in Astor saw two record-setting floods this year alone: One from Hurricane Ian and another from Nicole.

Those events came after major flooding during Hurricane Irma in 2017.

They also came after a revised report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration showed sea levels could rise as much as a foot by 2050, which could push more water up the St. Johns River and into Astor.

Gerth said he’s hopeful USACE can help find a way to prevent it from happening again.

“Strengthening infrastructure, making residents more resilient, (learning) how to manage and live with the flooding,” Gerth said. “The river is not going away, so how do we manage that and lessen the impacts for future events?”

News 6 first reported in June that USACE earmarked $95,000 for their study of the St. Johns River in Astor.

Researchers with the Silver Jackets were expected to look at water levels and try to find the missing piece needed to prevent neighborhoods from flooding.

Sea level rise over the past century has been between six and eight inches with almost half of that occurring since 1993. The rise is caused when land-based ice melts and flows into the ocean, and when ocean water gets warmer and expands.

Lake County would have to pay for the projects chosen by county government leaders.

Gerth said it’s a sign of hope for an area still struggling to get back to normal.

“Please be patient with us. Please engage with us, and provide us with feedback,” he said.

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About the Author:

Erik Sandoval joined the News 6 team as a reporter in May 2013 and became an Investigator in 2020. During his time at News 6, Erik has covered several major stories, including the 2016 Presidential campaign. He was also one of the first reporters live on the air at the Pulse Nightclub shooting.