From now until the election, the Town-Crier will ask questions each week to the six people seeking three seats on the Indian Trail Improvement District Board of Supervisors. This week’s question: How would you characterize the drainage services currently offered by the Indian Trail Improvement District? What improvements should be made? How should such projects be funded?
ITID SEAT 3
Ralph Bair — The ITID drainage system stores water in its canals, ditches and swales to recharge the wells the majority of our households depend on. This was the main focus of the drainage system that was designed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The series of dikes set up around the perimeter of The Acreage are for this purpose, as well as to keep other areas from flooding. The current drainage system works to maintain a stable water table for all of our area residents.
Continuing to clean the major canals improves conveyance, not storage, so water levels above normal will recede at an acceptable rate. Canal, ditch and swale repair has been an on-going project for the past six years and will continue to be a priority for the district.
Improvement in drainage will come once more storage can be found. By working with other government agencies, there are a number of possible opportunities to achieve this. One is working together with the City of West Palm Beach to remove excess water from The Acreage during the rainy season while providing them with water they need. Other possibilities include storage in the Moss property, however, that is a long-term solution. It is approximately 15 to 20 years in the future, according to our district engineer. One short-term solution would be to purchase pelican pumps that only require a tractor to operate, as well as work with other neighboring property owners to acquire land for additional water storage.
In order to fund these projects, ITID can apply for matching grants and use funds available by paying off existing bond payments. I believe this approach will maintain the existing system while planning ahead for long-term drainage solutions.
Alan Ballweg — Our drainage infrastructure is based on good engineering design, however two issues prevent it from operating at capacity. The main issue is with the SFWMD, which does not allocate us the full “one inch per day” of drainage, which is considered an adequate level of service. For historical reasons, we are only allocated about a quarter-inch per day, while Royal Palm Beach is permitted 3 inches per day. In April 2013, ITID was granted another 200 CFS (about 0.18 inches per day), which is conditional on levels in the M1 and C-51 canals. I have been working since late 2013 with Supervisor Gary Dunkley, the SFWMD, the FWC and other agencies to obtain emergency drainage access to the 2,300-acre Moss property, which is an unused state-owned property west of The Acreage. I believe it will bring us up to approximately the 1 inch per day we need.
The second issue is that maintenance of our infrastructure was not prioritized by previous boards, and estimates are that it will cost about $1 million per year for at least 10 years to bring it back up to standards. Canals need to be dredged, culverts replaced and other improvements made. I have been pushing for more transparency and initiated a project to implement real-time web-based telemetry access for residents. This program is currently running, though many telemetry points are not yet available. If elected, I will use my engineering knowledge and experience to ensure that ITID will have a well-maintained drainage system, with enough capacity to protect us from severe flooding.
ITID SEAT 5
Betty Argue — Drainage services to the district include swales, canals, telemetry and drainage permits from the South Florida Water Management District. There have been many improvements made to these services since Tropical Storm Isaac, such as work completed on swales, canals and telemetry, as well as an additional 200 CFS discharge permit from the SFWMD.
I believe in being proactive and to look at short-term as well as long-term benefits. A recent assessment and inventory of our systems by District Engineer Jay Foy showed there is still a lot of work to do. Mr. Foy outlined a 10-year plan, with approximately $1 million per year, to bring the drainage systems up to the original design standard. I support Mr. Foy’s plan, I believe it is absolutely essential and should be a priority to the district in order to avoid the results of another major rain event like Tropical Storm Isaac, or worse.
I support transparency and access to the telemetry data. I support efforts to get more drainage through the permitting process with the SFWMD, as well as obtaining drainage on the Moss property, which should satisfy our drainage needs. I think our current engineer, Mr. Foy, is the best professional to be tasked with bringing our drainage systems up to date, and I have confidence in the direction he has provided to the board. There is an existing budget for drainage services as well as funds in the General Fund to support Mr. Foy’s recommended maintenance plan.
Carol Jacobs — The Indian Trail Improvement District drainage system is not broken, like others may claim. ITID prepares a budget every year for every department — drainage, parks and roads — then the needed projects are prioritized. Yes, ITID needs more outfall, but if this system is operated properly, the system will work properly.
The ITID drainage system is maintained by the budget process and should continue to be budgeted that way. There will always be maintenance issues, purchases of equipment, repairs to pumps and technology updates, which are covered in the annual budget with reserves on hand for emergency situations. I believe that ITID should explore the idea of the purchasing of a large parcel equal in size of our current impoundment area for additional storage, and also the excavation of such land would give ITID many years of road rock for the district’s road system.
The purchase of additional property for storage would have to be a discussion by the board, with comments from our professional staff, then a public hearing for all units in the district, and there would have to be a majority vote of the board to approve this purchase. After formation and approval by the board, financing can be obtained for the purpose of constructing the water management system. Some say the Moss property, which is currently being discussed, is a cure-all for the district. It is not. It would be nice, and it will help — any storage helps — but this property is years out and will take many agencies to get to the table for such an agreement.
ITID SEAT 1
Mike Erickson — My knowledge of the ITID drainage system, along with real solutions, is well documented from my “Drainage 101” presentation at the post-Tropical Storm Isaac meeting at Seminole Ridge High School. Let me be clear: the impacts of Isaac were more severe because of improper operation by past staff of the South Florida Water Management District, ITID and the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission.
During my one term on the ITID board — way before Isaac — I was proactive about improving drainage. Those solutions included initiating phase one of a study to increase our impoundment capacity, filing complaints about high water levels at the Corbett area, funding temporary repairs to the berm, increasing maintenance funding to clear our canals, improving pumping and telemetry equipment and initiating a permit modification request for more capacity in our outfall.
We need to continue pushing the SFWMD until we receive 1-inch outfall capacity, even if this means litigating to enforce the MOU we received from the SFWMD in the 1980s. We also need to support the Moss property solution, but also understand that this solution is tied up in a federal process that will take decades to accomplish. If elected, I’d like to evaluate an “out of the box approach” to other drainage improvements that would include the possibility of doubling our impoundment size without wetland mitigation. We would increase capacity while saving on road rock to offset excavation costs.
When we talk about funding any expensive projects, I believe ITID should look at issuing bonds to spread the costs out over the life of the project. This way, taxes do not have to rise and the people who receive the benefit pay for it over the entire life of the benefit.
Jennifer Hager — Current drainage services provided by ITID have improved since Tropical Storm Isaac, which opened the eyes of many. During my presidency, the rehiring of our current District Engineer Jay Foy is one example of a critical need that has been met. Mr. Foy has been an asset to ITID with his unmatched expertise in drainage and hydrology, and his unprecedented working knowledge of this district. He has recommended a 10-year plan and a working timetable that will have this district functioning in its proper capacity. ITID should heed his recommendations, which have been neglected for years, and prioritize accordingly. Many of these projects are currently underway. A few suggestions include inverted siphon placement, pump house repairs, canal excavating and ongoing swale maintenance.
The general fund supports Mr. Foy’s recommended maintenance plan. Eliminating potential waste in future budgets allow for the continuance of much-needed drainage improvements. Grants are being applied for and awarded. The board recently approved the purchase of two excavators and a dump truck to facilitate in-house work instead of hiring outside contractors. After Isaac, the state, the SFWMD and ITID began discussing our needs for increased peak drainage (an additional 200 CFS has been granted, but more is still needed), Corbett berm repairs, SFWMD’s acquisition of Mecca Farms and the Moss property for ITID increased storage capacity. These key components will drastically improve ITID’s current situation, and we will be able to help ourselves instead of relying on the promises of others.
I may be reached at email@example.com for questions or comments.