Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Columbia County to Receive Federal Help With Hurricane Idalia Cleanup. FEMA to Pay 75% For Trees & Tree Parts Left Along the County Right-of-Way

Columbia County makes hurricane Idalia cleanup easier
Photo: Berry's Tree Pros

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – It was announced during a County 5 Emergency Meeting at 10:00 am this morning that FEMA will be paying for 75% of Columbia County debris pickup from Hurricane Idalia. Florida will pick up 12.5%, and the County will be responsible for the last 12.5%.

Foresight by the County in 2020 had it contract with Ceres Environmental, one of the world’s largest disaster recovery groups.

Hurricane Idalia was a wind event that impacted a large swath of North Florida, including Tallahassee and Columbia County. The wind toppled trees, stripped dead branches from them, and blew the tops off many trees.

Tree debris (organic debris) is at unprecedented levels in the County. While the public works department was doing a yeoman's job handling the debris, federal government help will help keep the County budget on an even keel.

Read more about Ceres Environmental hurricane experience.

Federal help will also enable folks to place organic debris along County right-of-ways for future pickup.

This debris includes tree parts that can be put along the side of the road, limbs, and branches.

The contract with Ceres Environmental and federal help allowed the County to expand this emergency pickup from just pickup for hand-placed debris by  "residents" to the all-inclusive trees, limbs, and branches placed on the side of the road any way one can get it there.

In plain English – if Idalia was responsible and you can get it to the side of the road, the debris will be picked up.

September 17, 2023, is the last day the County will allow debris deposit in the County right-of-way.


In March 2020, the County awarded a Disaster Debris Removal and Disposal contract with Ceres Environmental Services. All parties executed the contract in August 2020. The County had the option to extend the 3-year contract for two additional one-year extensions by August 19, 2023, the contract expiration.

Erica Johns, the County's Purchasing Officer, alerted the County 5 of the contract expiration on June 20, 2023.

The County 5 approved the extension in the nick of time at its August 17, 2023, meeting.


The federal government (American taxpayers) and purchasing’s Erica John’s attention to the Ceres contract expiration has made Hurricane Idalia’s cleanup chores easier for all of Columbia County.

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