Royal Palm Beach Seeking Canal Rehab Money From State

A local bill to provide funding to rehabilitate Royal Palm Beach canals, which passed in previous sessions but was vetoed by the governor, is going through the state legislature in Tallahassee once again.

Over the past several years, the village has been trying to address the accumulation of muck in its canals, which is easily stirred up and encourages the proliferation of aquatic weeds that are difficult, if not impossible, to control during the summer months.

The canals have not been cleaned since they were dug years ago, and the village receives many complaints about aquatic weed overgrowth in the summer.

“We apply for it every year, and we seem to get pretty far down the trail, and it’s vetoed by the governor,” Village Manager Ray Liggins told the Town-Crier on Tuesday. “It’s a local funding initiative. We apply for one every year, and we’ve gotten them once in a while. We’ve gotten vetoed the last couple of years.”

The Canal System Rehabilitation Project sponsored by State Rep. Matt Willhite (D-District 86) was approved by the Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee 13-0 on Jan. 18 and referred to the Appropriations Committee on Jan. 22. The bill requests $475,000 from the state to assist in the rehabilitation of the village’s canal system.

Liggins said the request fits in with the stormwater utilities ordinance passed by the village several years ago.

“The stormwater utilities pays for the maintenance of the system, and we have put some money away for capital,” he said. “We did one section of canal over in the La Mancha area. What we determined in doing that was it’s really expensive. It’s over $100 per cubic yard to deal with the muck removal. That was a half-million-dollar project.”

He said the village is prepared to match about $1 million with the request of $475,000 from the state.

“We think that we can get much better cost per unit if we can make it a $2 million project,” he said. “The cost of mobilization and all that was pretty high. We think we can do it much more efficiently. What we’re doing is removing the muck and deepening it a little bit, putting ourselves in a position where we will be less reliant on chemicals to control the weed growth. That’s our whole goal. We’re hoping to get better water quality because the muck’s not there. The muck stirs up easily, and you get sediment suspended in the water easier. It’s not as attractive, and can smell, too.”

Liggins said there is six inches to a foot of muck at the bottom of all the canals, and that was the only request to the state by the village.

“We always have the request, ‘Leave us alone,’” he said. “It looks like they’re getting pretty aggressive with these home rule [regulations]. I know that from November last year, they’ve got on the ballot people being able to vote for another $25,000 homestead exemption. It has huge effects for Palm Beach County. [Royal Palm Beach] will lose $350,000 in revenue if that passes.”