The Indian Trail Improvement District is working with several agencies in a cooperative effort to get funding this year to complete improvements to the half-finished levee that separates the J.W. Corbett Wildlife Management Area from The Acreage.
The levee breached after Tropical Storm Isaac dumped about 19 inches of rain over the community in 2012.
Acreage-area streets were already flooded from the deluge. Although a few homes flooded, the higher water level in Corbett led to the partial breach of the levee, which was the only thing protecting The Acreage from further flooding. The partial breach was brought under control due to a concerted effort by the South Florida Water Management District.
In 2013, the SFWMD was able to appropriate $4 million of the $8 million needed at the time and completed half of the levee improvements. The J.W. Corbett Wildlife Management Area is managed by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, which controls water levels there.
ITID President Betty Argue said lobbyist Mary McNicholas with Geoffrey B. Sluggett & Associates has been contracted by ITID to work with the SFWMD, the FWC and other involved agencies to get the rest of the funding to complete the levee improvements, as well as M-O Canal outfall improvements, which together are estimated to cost $9.4 million.
“They have been working diligently on M-O outfall and Corbett levee funding with the South Florida Water Management District, Florida Fish & Wildlife, the county and ITID — we’re all sort of in a working partnership,” Argue said. “We have a great team put together working on that.”
She added ITID Supervisor Michael Johnson has also been involved with getting the funding for the project.
“It looks like the South Florida Water Management District has put in for funding for the Corbett levee,” Argue said. “We’re still trying to determine whether we’re going to need to put in an appropriation, and we have a meeting with State Rep. Rick Roth regarding that.”
She said they are also looking for some funding from the county, which has some pots of money that they can use potentially to help fund the project.
“This project is being packaged together now, the Corbett levee and the M-O outfall together, so the cost of the project has now increased to $9.4 million,” Argue said. “Remember, when we first started out, the whole project was $8 million, and we only got half of it done, so we’re making great headway here. Kudos to the board for supporting a change in direction… We might just get this issue addressed this year.”
McNicholas told the Town-Crier that Sluggett & Associates has been hired specifically to help get the project through the legislature.
“It is a project that was promised back in 2013 by former Gov. Rick Scott,” she said. “They authorized $4 million, which was half of the $8 million for the construction of the levee between the J.W. Corbett Wildlife Management Area and the Indian Trail Improvement District.”
In 2015, the western half of the levee was completed with the understanding that the balance of the funds would follow in the next fiscal year, which never happened.
“Only the western half of the levee was constructed, which protects mainly agricultural land,” she said. “The eastern portion that would protect the residential areas remains unconstructed and doesn’t have plans for appropriation.”
Sluggett & Associates has been brought on to work with SFWMD Executive Director Drew Bartlett and other agencies to obtain funding.
“His team came out and looked at all of this. They did a lot of field trips. Half a levee is no levee at all,” McNicholas said, pointing out that after Isaac, most of The Acreage flooded, and if the higher water level in Corbett had breached out of control, the situation would have been much worse.
The SFWMD built the existing berm, she noted. “They have the plan that’s already designed, and they seem to feel very comfortable that we’re collaborating together,” McNicholas said.
She added that District 6 County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay has pushed for the levee’s completion for many years and remains supportive.
“We have to go to the [Palm Beach County] Legislative Delegation and make this a priority for this area,” McNicholas said. “We’ve put in collaboratively for the Resilient Florida grant program, which Gov. [Ron] DeSantis has signed. That will be projects in partnership with local communities beginning in 2022.”