FOLEY – A city project will clear debris and sediment that Hurricane Sally left in the Bon Secour River that is flooding property almost three years after the storm.

The Foley City Council voted to approve the project to clear debris at a cost of about $263,000. Darrel Russell, public works director, said much of downtown Foley and nearby areas west of Alabama 59 and south of U.S. 98 are drained by the river.

He said the river was cleared after the 2020 hurricane, but more sediment and debris from the storm has washed into the stream since then.

“After Sally, a lot of the residents cleaned out the best that they could, but there’s an area when these two (streams) meet,” he said. “There’s a lot of buildup of sand and we’re not letting up the amount of water that this facility needs here. So we also have water backing up on these homes.”

Mayor Ralph Hellmich said city officials have been working with Baldwin County, the state and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to clean the stream bed. He said that once the waterway is cleared, FEMA should pay some of the future costs of maintaining the site.

“Right now, this is kind of an area in between, we call it a no man’s land. We talked to the state. We talked for the county and we talked to FEMA,” Hellmich said. “The way it works with FEMA is the same way if you had an obstructed beach as Gulf Shores. Once you build that beach and there’s any degradation from the storm, FEMA  will pay you to put it back like it was.”

After future storms, the city can apply for federal funding to remove debris and sediment if the site is maintained..

“You’ve got to show you’re maintaining it,” he said. “This is stormfall from Sally. We can’t claim it because it’s never been maintained before, technically. So, we need to do the initial clean out and then we can get this restriction.”

Hellmich said city crews have been working to remove some items, such as abandoned shopping carts, from the drainage area. Residents have also cleaned some of the area.

The drainage area includes part of downtown Foley extending to near U.S. 98 and Alabama 59 and extends south through the Aaronville community, where the water drains through a concrete lined waterway. The area also extends as far north as Orchid Avenue and includes some of the city schools, such as Foley Elementary and Mathis Elementary.

The mayor said similar projects have improved drainage and reduced flooding.

“We did this on County Road 12,” he said. “I think we prevented flooding of houses when we cleaned out the headwaters of Bon Secour down in that area that went into Boggy Branch.”