Water-Related News

Tom Palmer: The rest of the Itchepackesassa Creek story

Attempts to ditch and drain Florida’s landscape to turn marshes into dry farmland and to make uninhabitable parts of the state inhabitable have a long, unsavory history.

Most of the projects didn’t work in the long run and caused a lot of ecological damage in the meantime.

We’re still living with that legacy today.

For decades one of the places Ledger reporters and photographers were dispatched following tropical storms or during wet El Niño years to document flooding was the Itchepackesassa Creek basin northwest of Lakeland.

This is an area where development had been allowed to increasingly encroach into an area that may not have been suitable for much of it as people sought to escape urban noise and traffic for some relative peace and quiet in the countryside.

According to the Gazetteer of Florida Streams, Itchepackesassa Creek flows 31.3 feet downhill along a 16-mile course that brings it to Blackwater Creek, a 15.3-mile stream that eventually flows into the Hillsborough River.

During one of the flooding episodes, The Ledger published an editorial calling for an end of new construction in the Itchepackesassa Creek basin. At the time work was underway to expand The Ledger’s building. That led the county engineer to call The Ledger’s editorial page editor and jocularly suggest the newspaper halt construction on its expansion, explaining its property lies within the creek’s drainage basin, too.

The area was once much wetter.

A 1927 soils map of this section of Polk County shows a stream surrounded by extensive wetlands.

The soils outside the mucky wetlands in this part of Polk County are poorly drained, which means water doesn’t seep into the ground very quickly, so the flooding is hardly a surprise.

The relatively flat topography probably doesn’t help.

That brings me to the recent discussion about flooding in the area, Polk County drainage policy and the construction of Walker Road Park.