The long-reach mower purchased recently by the Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District is already making significant improvements in the appearance of canal banks, District Administrator Stephen Yohe told the LGWCD Board of Supervisors on Monday.
Delivery of a long-reach backhoe is also anticipated, which will enable the district to dig out canals to district specifications. Both mowing and canal dredging had been contracted services because the district did not have proper equipment. Neither has been done for several years since the district lost about $150,000 in annual financing for those services.
A hedging demonstration was conducted on a canal along a portion of 161st Terrace North off North A Road on Nov. 21. Supervisor John Ryan, Councilman Ron Jarriel and several staff members were on hand. They watched the mower hedge about 600 feet of dense vegetation in one hour.
“Since that time, if you’ve driven around the district, you’ll note an amazing difference just in the past three weeks where we have improved the appearance of the canal banks and maintenance berms, and the general overall appearance as a result of the tractor,” Yohe said.
Yohe added that NorTrac anticipates delivering a long-arm excavator the week of Dec. 16. “It’s in Tampa in about six pieces,” he said. “We anticipate that they will remain on schedule, and we will have the backhoe excavator next week.”
The long-arm mower and 40-foot-reach backhoe were approved in the 2014 LGWCD budget.
When the backhoe arrives, district staff will finish the restoration of the A Road Canal South and around the Royal Palm Beach Pines Natural Area on E Road and southern North Road.
Yohe said engineering and surveying has been done by contractors using $30,000 available from a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant, but a significant portion of the remaining $180,000 cost will be reimbursed in increments, which will come back to the district because most of the work will be done in-house.
“Going forward, we’re going to use our in-house equipment, use the rates for the backhoes that were applied and paid for and accepted by the USDA on the A Canal work for the in-house work that we will conduct with our new backhoe. That’s approximately $145 an hour, which they have accepted,” Yohe said, adding that the cost includes operator, fuel and maintenance of the equipment.
Yohe said he has talked with county officials about reinforcing the berm encircling the natural area after Tropical Storm Isaac caused water to overflow.
“We have been wrestling with the county in regard to spilling into the preserve and affecting their natural vegetation,” Yohe said. “Not having the machine here, we obviously didn’t proceed. I sent a letter to the USDA today asking them for a 60-day extension.”
The current agreement with the USDA for A Road and around the natural area expires on Jan. 18, but Yohe said he has received verbal approval from the USDA’s Jacksonville office.
“We’re confident we’ll get that extension, and we’re confident that we’ll get it done in-house and restore the flow,” Yohe said, estimating that there’s about 4 feet of dirt in the A Canal. “I was always puzzled why the water wouldn’t go east and south from the A Canal.”
In other business, Yohe said the district has retained e-City Services to enhance the LGWCD web site. The changes are expected to be up and running by March 2014. Some of the features of the new site include an online request-for-service form, easy access and up-to-date posting of board meeting packets and meeting minutes, a search bar integrated into the banner, an e-mail emergency bulletin board and a weather widget.
Yohe said he found the service through Town Administrator Mark Kutney, and that the district is piggybacking on the town’s price, which is about $5,000.
Supervisor Don Widing, who works for the City of Oakland Park, mentioned that he’d recently finished a project developing a mobile application for code enforcement where pictures of infractions can be sent in from cell phones.
“After this, you might want to think about taking it to the next level, maybe partner with the town and see what’s there,” Widing said. “People download it, they can take a picture and say, ‘Here’s the culvert. Here’s the drainage issue.’ Those apps are available, and they’re not that expensive.”