More than five months after Hurricane Matthew hit, some private communities on Hilton Head Island are still uncertain who will clean up debris from their lagoon systems.
Peter Kristian, Hilton Head Plantation’s general manager, said Monday there are about 100 lagoons inside the plantation that are a part of the town’s stormwater system. Many of the lagoons accumulated debris, such as downed trees, during the Oct. 8 storm, he said.
“Obviously, the debris provides a problem,” Kristian said. “It will impede water flow. We need the debris out of there for the system to operate at an optimal capacity.”
Scott Liggett, the town’s chief engineer and director of public projects and facilities, said there is uncertainty about whether the Federal Emergency Management Agency will cover any of the costs of lagoon cleanup in private communities.
The town initially tackled the most serious issues in its drainage ditches with $478,000 in funding from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Liggett said.
Town staff are working on gathering information for a $1.2 million second phase of the grant through the NRCS, he said.
Liggett said he is unsure if there will be enough NRCS funds to cover the town’s entire stormwater system, including lagoons within private communities. Town officials on Monday were unable to say how many total lagoons are affected.
There also has been confusion over whether FEMA will pick up cleanup costs that the NRCS doesn’t cover, he said.
“We have received different answers from FEMA on whether they will be involved,” Liggett said. “We were originally told we could exhaust the other resources and then come back to FEMA for funding. That advice has changed in the last month.”
Town staff are working on finishing debris removal from rights-of-way in private communities while at the same time planning for lagoon-debris removal, he said.
Steve Riley, town manager, said Monday there is always uncertainty when asking for federal cleanup funding.
“Everything is unknown,” he said. “The lagoons are a part of one system that services the entire island. That is how we will present it.”