If you see heavy equipment on canal banks in Boca, it’s probably the Lake Worth Drainage District at work.
The district encompasses canals in approximately 200 square miles in southeast Palm Beach County, bordered on the west by the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, on the east by Interstate 95, on the north by Okeechobee Boulevard and on the south by the Hillsboro canal.
Here’s an update on what the LWDD is doing now in Boca Raton from Tommy B. Strowd, executive director and district engineer.
Q: If people see commercial equipment out there, is that the district?
A: Fifty percent of the canal rehabilitation program work is done by our staff and 50 percent by contractors. Work is done on canal right of ways. Inside a parcel is not our folks. There’s a small percentage where a development comes in, next to one of our canals if they need to reconstruct a canal as part of their permit. That’s relatively limited.
Q: There was a lot of controversy a few years ago over removal of trees and backyard security in Boca. Where do those issues stand?
A: The canal rehabilitation program is 71% complete over 180 miles and trees are part of the problem. We’re routinely able to clear 30 miles a year. We expect to be done tree clearing in 2022.
In Boca, we’ve wrapped up tree removal work. The city of Boca was great. They collaborated with us and communities, too. We didn’t like having an impact on aesthetics. I don’t think it could have turned out any better.
Q: So what are we seeing out there?
A: Most likely you’re seeing the second phase, dressing up canal banks, restoring slopes, removing sediment on the bottom of canals. Restoring their capacity to move water.
It will probably be a modest level of work that will go on for years. We’ll come back after a major rain event. It’s a continuing effort. There were many areas in Boca where the trees were so dense, we couldn’t even see the canals. This time of year when there’s not a lot of rain, it’s in preparation for the wet season.
Q: How will residents know what you’re working on now in Boca?
A: We put all our projects on the website. https://www.lwdd.net/ We have a big map with canals, so you can find where you live and see proximity of where canals are.
Q: The projects listed In Your Neighborhood are by the name of the canals. https://www.lwdd.net/canal-maintenance/neighborhood
Q: How can you tell which ones are in Boca?
A: Basically they are from the L49 to the south end of the district, the Palm Beach/Broward County line. In Boca it’s generally from Yamato Road south, L42 on Yamato and every half-mile the number goes go up. Near 18th Street is L50.
Q: I see a lot of people fishing in the canals. Is that allowed?
A: We don’t prohibit it. Right of ways were purchased with public funds. The legislature encourages public access, but we don’t like vehicles on the canal and we don’t allow bike paths. We won’t call the police on it.
But a caveat is that in some of the older developments, their houses come right up to the canal and communities express security concerns. So we allowed a fence to preclude people walking [behind a home]. This is case by case, and we try to afford them a level of security and some level of public access.
Q: But you don’t stock the canals with fish?
A: No we don’t. But we’re right on the edge of the Everglades, so it’s a short trip.
Q: Most people are upset when something is going on and find out after the fact. Can you do anything about that?
A: In carrying out our mission, we catch a lot of people by surprise. That we’re a special governmental entity focused on the maintenance and function of these canals. So we’re under the radar until they get concerns.
Q: But people can contact you and appear at your monthly meetings for answers.
A: There are Zoom meetings now, but we’re going to have meetings where people can look us in eye again. These Zoom meetings give people access who might not have ability to attend.
Take a look at the district website and then pick your communication…call, send an email and we’ll respond quickly.
By Marci Shatzman