Guidelines for Debris Removal on Highlands County Roadways


Highlands County is providing storm debris removal for most areas within the County. This program is partially reimbursed by FEMA and the State of Florida and as such, must comply with strict rules and guidelines provided by these agencies. The program was intended for public areas and right of ways but in cases where human health and life safety are concerns, private roadways may qualify for collection as well. To see what is needed to qualify please see the guidelines below.

Public Right of Way, Non-County Maintained

If a roadway is platted as a public right of way but is not county maintained, these roadways will still be covered under the program. No further action is required. Crews will be inspecting and removing debris as part of the contract.

Private Right of Way, Non-County Maintained

If a roadway is platted as a privately maintained right of way (typically within a community), a Right of Entry and Indemnification Agreement will need to be filled out, signed by the maintenance entity, and filed with the Engineering Department.  These roadways will not be collected unless agreements are received by the maintenance entity for the roadway.

Private Access Easements

If the roadway is not a right of way (typically an easement), then property owners are responsible for maintenance of the road/driveway. Per FEMA directive, home owners will be responsible for debris removal in these areas and/or applying with FEMA for Individual Assistance program.

Areas not covered by insurance or Individual Assistance may apply for the Private Property Debris Removal program only if the debris removal is in the public interest and does not only benefit an individual or limited group of individuals within the community. If the properties on the private roadway easement apply for this program, then documentation of insurance and IA program requests/denial will need to be provided for areas requesting collection. Further, a Right of Entry and Indemnification Agreement (link available below) will be needed from ALL landowners adjoining the easement. These forms must be signed by the land owner or authorized agent to provide legal access to the property. The roadway cannot be considered until forms are received for all properties along the roadway.  The roadway and property will then need to be inspected for compliance, approved on the County level, then notification will be made to the State and FEMA. If approved the streets will be added to the maps for the next pass for cleanup.


The forms can be found online on the Board website (Click here for fillable pdf Indemnification form)   or copies can be provided at the Engineering Department.


Examples of areas that will not qualify:

·         Private roadways on commercial properties

·         Private roadways that are inside privately owned mobile home/RV parks

·         Private roadways internal to apartment or condominium complexes

·         Private roadways serving commercial agriculture

Forms for Right of Entry and Indemnification Agreements can be found at

Return the original forms to:

Highlands County Engineering Department

505 S. Commerce Ave, Sebring, Fl  33870. 

Phone 863-402-6877


Once all necessary forms are completed and reviewed, the site will be inspected by county staff and the FEMA program monitoring company to verify it qualifies as meeting the criteria, written requests are then submitted to FEMA for consideration of reimbursement, and then assigned to the collection crews. This process may take 1-3 weeks to complete.


FEMA Requirements:

FEMA may only approve reimbursement based on the Applicant’s satisfactory demonstration (including relevant documentation) that the:  

·         Private Property Debris Removal (PPDR) was in the public interest or debris on private property is so widespread that it threatens public health and safety.

·         Applicant has legal authority to perform debris removal activities on private property,

·         Applicant agrees to indemnify the Federal Government (including FEMA),

·         Applicant obtained and complied with applicable permits or approvals for the locations of temporary debris staging and reduction sites and final debris disposal sites, and

·         Applicant has satisfied all legal processes and obtained permission from the property owners (rights-of-entry or other unconditional authorization) and agreements to indemnify and hold harmless the Federal government.

Debris Removal from Commercial Property

Removal of debris from commercial properties, such as industrial parks, golf courses, cemeteries, apartments, condominiums, and trailer parks, is generally ineligible because commercial enterprises are expected to retain insurance that covers debris removal. In very limited, extraordinary circumstances, FEMA may provide an exception. 

Duplication of Benefits

The private property owners should attempt to pursue and recover insurance proceeds and credit FEMA the Federal share of any insurance proceeds received. In some circumstances, FEMA may provide assistance to individuals through the Individual Assistance (IA) Program for debris removal. In these cases, the FEMA Public Assistance (PA) program will coordinate closely with IA to ensure FEMA does not fund the same work under both programs.

Environmental Considerations for Debris Removal

FEMA must ensure that the Applicant’s debris removal operations avoid impacts to floodplains, wetlands, federally listed threatened and endangered species and their critical habitats, and historic properties (including maritime or underwater archaeological resources if waterways are impacted). The Applicant must stage debris at a safe distance from property boundaries, surface water, wetlands, structures, wells, and septic tanks with leach fields.

Options for debris removal if you do not qualify for the Public Assistance program

·         Residential areas may bring their debris to the nearest County maintained right of way for pickup. (Currently the County is not authorized to pick up debris from State right of ways).

·         Residents may bring storm debris (trees/vegetation or building materials) to the Highlands County Landfill at 12700 Arbuckle Creek Rd, Sebring. Tipping fees have been waived until November 21, 2017 for county residents who bring their material to the landfill. This waiver does not apply to commercial contractors/companies. Loads must comply with tarp laws and be properly secured.

·         Residents may hire contractors to remove debris from their property and dispose of it appropriately or place it on public right of way nearest their residence where it can be picked up. Anyone placing debris in the County right of way not directly related to adjacent houses may be considered as illegally dumping and subject to fines and/or being found guilty of a criminal act.


Garbage and Storm Debris Placement:

-Please separate garbage products, construction products (C&D), electronics, and vegetative debris in separate piles. Vegetative debris will not be picked up if it is commingled with garbage, wood/construction debris, metals, white goods such as refrigerators/hot water heaters/ dishwasher.

-Do not place storm debris materials in plastic bags or containers. The vegetative debris will be burned and plastic material is not safe to burn.

-Debris should be placed roadside, not in the roadways, ditches, or on sidewalks. Debris located within ditches or swales may cause drainage issues. Do not block traffic visibility, improper sight distance at intersections and driveways can also cause unsafe conditions.

-Do not place storm debris over or near any structures or items that could be damaged by equipment (telephone boxes, power poles, mail boxes, storm drains, water meters, ect.). Also do not place piles under tree limbs, utility wires or other vertical obstructions.

-Please avoid areas where collection activities are occurring. Equipment being used can be very dangerous and has many blind spots so stay away!

-Contractors can cut up the debris and trees if in the public right-of-way but are not authorized to enter private property. Please bring any debris for removal to the public right-of-way for pickup.

-Household solid waste must comply with the solid waste requirements for collection and is not considered under this program.

-Furniture and other large household items are not considered storm debris C&D material and must be disposed of with the solid waste. Large amounts of solid waste will require a separate agreement with the waste hauler for the County.

-Normal yard waste should not be mixed with storm debris and should be properly bundled and set out for normal yard waste collection by the normal waste hauler. Material shall be no longer than 4 feet, bundled, and weigh less than 50 lbs.