Isaac’s Water Brings Anger And Blame, But We Need Solutions

The western communities were dealt a blow this week after Tropical Storm Isaac brought massive amounts of rains to the area. Wellington, Royal Palm Beach, Loxahatchee Groves and The Acreage all were affected. However, the situation in The Acreage has become quite severe. Residents are angry, some focusing their ire on the Indian Trail Improvement District. There’s plenty of blame to go around: from Mother Nature to regional and state governments that have dragged their feet for decades.

We understand that residents are angry. But just as ITID officials must be empathetic to the needs of the people it serves, it would behoove those people to educate themselves and understand the district’s situation as well. For decades, regional authorities have known that the drainage system serving The Acreage is inadequate for a community that now has 40,000 residents. Time and again plans have been drawn up to solve the problem, and those plans have always been put on hold. If it isn’t due to a lack of money, then it’s water quality in proposed rock pit reservoirs or lack of land to make a flow way work. Often it’s regional governments with competing interests blocking one another.

Some people wonder why the Town-Crier insists on writing about boring topics like water management policy on a regular basis. (Case in point: a county meeting in April where commissioners decided that another western reservoir was a nice idea, but not one they were ready to commit to.) We have been trying to get people to pay attention to the fact that water management matters, and it is unfortunate that it takes a situation like this to illustrate how important it is.

Just two weeks ago, the county tentatively approved a land swap with the South Florida Water Management District to create the “missing link” flow way on the Mecca Farms land. Why did this excite Indian Trail officials? More capacity might let the SFWMD finally give ITID the drainage rights it has long been requesting.

Given ITID’s current capabilities and infrastructure, flooded streets are expected in major storm events. Though district officials have tried to improve this situation, their powers are limited. There is no real government in The Acreage, only an improvement district with limited powers and limited taxing authority. Major improvements need county and state support. Then again, the people of The Acreage chose to live in the community exactly because of its limited government. And unfortunately, we saw the consequences this week.

If you’re not going to pay the taxes to a municipality, you can’t expect to have the same level of service and have a local government you can hold accountable. However, the powers that be — the regional water managers and the county government — need to stop dragging their feet on regional water management issues. It is not time to set up another task force to discuss it for another year.

While there was water intrusion into some homes, properties in The Acreage, by and large, were not destroyed by Isaac. That means what we’re dealing with is a giant inconvenience for most people, not Katrina-style devastation. As of Wednesday, the waters are slowly receding. Why? Because now that other areas are dry, regional water managers and neighboring communities have lent ITID their capacity. That’s very nice of them, but it’s not enough.