South Florida’s water managers are kicking hurricane prep into high gear with a $94,000-project underway to buzz cut an overgrown Palm Beach County canal.
The C-15 canal, which borders Boca Raton and Delray Beach, will have brush and trees cleared from its banks to ensure a clear path for water to drain to the Intracoastal during the wettest time of the year and the upcoming hurricane season, which runs June 1 through November.
Only land owned by the South Florida Water Management District along the canal’s right-of-way will be cleared, but that includes areas adjacent to back yards and about 100 trees. Fences built on district land and four “dilapidated” docks will also be removed. Homeowners can apply for permits to rebuild docks.
“This is being proactive, taking action before the next storm hits us so there won’t be anything that will blow in,” said Randy Smith, water district spokesman. “There are a few trees that are strategically dangerous because they are right on the side of the bank or are already leaning over it so they could fall in with high winds.”
The C-15 canal runs from State Road 7 to the Intracoastal, but the project areas includes only a 1.1 mile section from I-95 to South Dixie Highway. The first phase began this week, and includes an area from Brant Drive to South Dixie Highway.
Rain water from neighborhoods in Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Boca Raton and unincorporated western communities drains into the C-15. About 70 percent of South Florida’s annual rainfall occurs between mid-May and mid-October, including an average of 36.2 inches as measured by the National Weather Service gauge at Palm Beach International Airport.
Following September’s Hurricane Irma, about $68,750 was spent to clear debris from the C-15 canal, which is about 150-feet wide.
The C-51 canal between West Palm Beach and Lake Worth also needed to be cleared following Hurricane Irma — a $240,690 bill.
“The protection of Delray Beach families is a top priority for city commission members and preparations for the upcoming hurricane season to ensure that public safety such as trimming and removing trees from canal banks to prevent potential flooding are necessary,” Delray Beach Deputy Vice-Mayor Shirley Johnson said in a press release.
The district maintains 2,100 miles of canals from in a 16-county region stretching from Orlando to the Florida Keys. The C-15 project is part of routine maintenance, but it wasn’t immediately available Tuesday when it last underwent a tree-clearing as extensive as the current project.
In April, the District started clearing trees and vegetation from a section of the Golden Gate Main Canal to protect homeowners in the Big Cypress Basin in Collier County. Since last year, the District has been working to clear the right of way along the C-100A Canal in Miami-Dade County to improve flood protection in that region.
Smith said some residents along the C-15 canal weren’t aware that the district owned the right-of-way, and wrongly thought a road was being built along the canal banks. The district sent three letters to residents notifying them of the pending tree removal.
The work, which is expected to take up to eight weeks, will be done from a barge in the canal to reduce homeowner disruption.
“Well-maintained and free-flowing canals are at the heart of our flood control system and a crucial component to protecting families and businesses from harm during and after storms,” said SFWMD Governing Board Vice Chair Melanie Peterson.