Everglades Projects Let RPB Drain Quickly After Storm

Royal Palm Beach got through the rains of Tropical Storm Isaac relatively well, although there was some road damage, Village Manager Ray Liggins told the Town-Crier this week.

“From the roads being inundated, we do have about $300,000 worth of damage,” Liggins said Wednesday. “Other than that, the water drained off fairly quickly. We were dry by the end of Monday. By Tuesday morning, our roads were clear.”

Liggins said projects tied in with Everglades restoration have improved Royal Palm Beach’s drainage tremendously.

“With the Everglades restoration project and the pumps out west, and the fact that we didn’t get a whole lot of rain on the east coast, the C-51 [Canal] flowed at unprecedented capacity,” Liggins said.

He added that the South Florida Water Management District’s not drawing down the C-51 Canal, anticipating only about 5 inches of rain, did not appear to affect the canal’s ability to draw off the village’s water.

Liggins explained that was “because of the capacity they have out at 20-Mile Bend now, and the ability to send water both east and west from us. According to the water management district, we had upwards of 10,000 cubic feet per second going, with 5,000 cubic feet going toward the Intracoastal Waterway and 4,500 going out to the [stormwater treatment areas] and bypasses they had set up out there.”

Most of the village’s water headed west. “The C-51 stayed in a position where it was able to receive our water the entire time, so that put us in a position where we could open up the gate for Indian Trail and let them pass their water through the village much sooner than we ever have in the past,” Liggins said. “It worked very well.”

Liggins explained that because the coast did not receive as much rain, the SFWMD was able to open a flood gate installed on the C-51 just west of State Road 7 and further enhance the flow. “It put everybody in a position where we could send water to the C-51 in much larger quantities, much sooner,” Liggins said.

He said the experience draws to mind the presentations at public hearings by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the stormwater treatment areas at 20-Mile Bend and its claims that the structures would reduce flood probability and increase recovery times.

“You know what?” Liggins said. “This is the first storm that we actually got to experience it firsthand at its capacity, and that’s why I think we recuperated so quickly.”

Liggins said the combination of preventive efforts by the Army Corps, the SFWMD, ITID and the village have greatly reduced the potential for storm damage.

“We have done drainage improvements over the years and maintained the system,” he said. “Indian Trail has made improvements over the years to their system, and their ability to move water from one point to another has increased.”

Liggins was critical of media reports suggesting that the region’s drainage system did not work well.

“There’s limited capacity to get rid of water,” he said. “The system was designed and envisioned to hold back some and release it over time, and it works that way. In this particular case, because of the work of water managers and the federal government, they really allowed us to have a pretty speedy recovery.”