GOTHA, Fla. – Engineers commissioned by Orange County leaders recently completed a $200,000 study looking into the cause of flooding concerns in the West Orange County community of Gotha.
“The Gotha Lakes Watershed has experienced flooding as a result of elevated lake levels primarily in Lake Nally, Mills Pond and Gotha Pond generally during consecutive years of above normal rainfall,” the report concluded. “Unlike rivers, streams and other conveyance systems that react to high intensity / short duration storm events that lead to flooding, land-locked lakes tend to react to above average cumulative rainfall. For that reason, an emphasis is placed on annual rainfall and cumulative above average rainfall, which typically correlates very well with elevated lake levels.”
Last year, News 6 detailed the record flooding in the Gotha area, specifically at Lake Fischer, Lake Nally, Lake Hugh, Mills Pond and Gotha Pond, as neighbors searched for answers about what was causing the sustained flooding.
[PREVIOUS STORY: New report provides clues to origin of Gotha flooding problems]
For months, neighbors blamed housing development and the nearby Florida Turnpike for the flooding.
Mery and Juan Fernandez still make mortgage payments on their empty Gotha home, even after nature moved in a year ago and flood waters took over their first floor.
“It’s a disaster,” Mery Fernandez said. “I don’t like to come here because I get very upset. It does affect me.”
The report goes on to suggest the following potential solutions to help better manage flood issues:
1. Expanding available floodplain storage
2. Adding a recharge well with provided water quality treatment
3. Pumping and conveyance of excess stormwater outside of the Gotha Lakes Watershed, with water quality retrofit
“That report was basically a manipulation of the truth,” Fernandez said. “That’s how I see it.”
Neighbors note that an early draft version of the report pointed to the Turnpike Authority as a possible culprit, mentioning repeated flooding problems at Mills Pond, and several previous studies looking into the issue:
“It appears that an effort was made by the Turnpike [Enterprise] to investigate the reported complaints associated with the documented high water levels within Mills Pond. However, it does not appear that any corrective actions were taken.”
That exact language did not make it into the final report, and was instead replaced with this:
“It appears that an effort was made by the Turnpike Enterprise to investigate the reported complaints associated with the documented high-water levels within Mills Pond. The Turnpike reviewed their plans in the area and determined they followed FDOT criteria and the SJRWMD issued permit. Therefore, the Turnpike took no mitigation measures. The Turnpike did install additional…