Engineer Advises Lox Groves To Develop A Clean Water Plan

Engineering consultant Randy Wertepny reported to the Loxahatchee Groves Town Council last week that he is making good progress persuading residents to let the town use a portion of their road easement to improve drainage.

The drainage is important to protect roads from deteriorating during rain events when stormwater remains on the roads.

Wertepny, who is with Keshavarz & Associates, gave other important updates on the status of the town’s drainage, including the need to start considering the amount of nutrients the town allows to get into its stormwater.

Wertepny said that he has been working with Town Engineer Larry Peters and contractor WBI to obtain additional drainage inlets.

“They’ve come to us with seven or eight different locations that WBI was able to get endorsement for easements, so we looked at the sites with those, and they have submitted bids for town review and approval,” he said.

Wertepny said some of the roadwork along North Road needs more attention than patching, which is what the WBI contract calls for.

“The two roads along North Road really would lend themselves to a larger project,” he said. “You have road right of way in this area that was dedicated years in the past. I believe it was prior to when the OGEM was placed off of North Road in a certain segment, and then the specific contract that I believe WBI has is to do a roadway repair. So, if we were to put a drainage inlet adjacent to an OGEM road, they’re going to do an open cut patch. The price they have is equivalent to that, however, the roadway improvement to widen that OGEM road would cost more.”

Wertepny brought the issue to the town engineer’s attention, who is looking for other means to widen the road, and WBI will submit only for drainage improvements in that area.

While Wertepny has received letters from the residents, the easements have not yet been recorded. “We were speaking to your staff about that earlier in trying to move forward with that,” he said.

Wertepny reported that the Groves Town Center at the northeast corner of Southern Blvd. and B Road has submitted construction plans for the commercial pods where the Wawa convenience store, Chase bank and Aldi grocery store will be. “Since then, Aldi has come in for construction plans and site approvals,” he said. “Those projects are all cost-reimbursable with the developers.”

Wertepny added that he has met with staff about updating the town’s land development codes pertaining to drainage and water quality.

“Not everything is relevant to the Town of Loxahatchee Groves, so we’d like to try to work with you to update that. With that, too, is roadways,” he said, explaining that the typical section for any parking lot is 4 inches of OGEM (Open-Graded Emulsified Mix) over 6 inches of rock.

He questioned whether OGEM is really cheaper in the long run, since asphalt holds up longer than OGEM.

Wertepny said that flood plain management has been discussed for a while in Loxahatchee Groves.

“We started the process five years ago when FEMA came in and said, ‘Hey, we’re going to modify the federal insurance rate maps,’” Wertepny said, explaining that Keshavarz represented the town, working with FEMA and the South Florida Water Management District and were able to reduce the area, taking several homes out of the flood plain.

“After that, because there were still portions of the town within the flood plain, the National Flood Insurance Program had to be started, which also started the flood plain management ordinance,” Wertepny said. “We have some suggestions to try to develop that into the town code, so we have some things that are uniform with each residence.”

Wertepny said some applications should be looked at differently, such as a resident who is looking to install a driveway versus someone looking to pave their entire property.

“You can start looking into, does a 5-acre lot, whether it’s residential or equestrian based, have a certain allocation of coverage?” Wertepny said. “If you look at a lot of these models, they’ll take a residential area in Royal Palm Beach, and every residential area is entitled to 65 percent impervious coverage, 50 percent for the building and 15 percent for pool, driveway, etcetera.”

That calculation is different for Loxahatchee Groves. “What are the reasonable buildouts for these lots for what should we be anticipating in the stormwater management system, which is primarily canals and culverts with the three outfalls to Southern Blvd?” he asked.

Wertepny said having such a model would help with management of the flood plain ordinance.

“It will help with so many other things that are going to be coming down the line,” he added, such as the national pollution discharge elimination system (NPDES) created by the Clean Water Act, which helps address water pollution by regulating point sources that discharge pollutants.

The town was designated several years ago as a violator by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

“We fought that designation, and we were successful. However, there was a different makeup of the town as far as drainage systems,” Wertepny said. “NPDES is going to be relooked at by the FDEP again after the 2020 census, so there is a likelihood that they are going to designate the town again, and it’s less probable that we would be able to prove that we should not follow that program. It’s a permitting process where we would have to monitor water quality.”

Wertepny said the town should try to be ahead of the game by setting up best management practices that should be in the town code anyway. “The really easy, low-hanging fruit one is manure,” he said. “Someone who has stockpiled manure, it can’t be next to the canal, or the canal has to be graded away, and they have to retain that water on-site, so it doesn’t just get into the canals. Manure will turn dissolved nitrogen and work its way in there, and now the town is having to treat that water and the system as well.”

Wertepny pointed out that the only water treatment the town has is the canal system, with the exception of the swales that the town is in the process of installing.

“The swales are actually a big water quality improvement,” he said. “However, prior to that, it’s just a long, linear canal system.”