The Coastal Star

Along the Coast: Delray-based cruise provides education on sea walls’ vulnerability

A cruise to educate the public about king tides took place on the same day seating areas and the dock at Veterans Park flooded, as happens with king tides. Michelle Quigley/The Coastal Star

By Jane Smith

    In Delray Beach, most residents know that Veterans Park, Marine Way and the city’s marina along the Intracoastal Waterway flood during king tides.
    But some barrier island streets also are prone to flooding, according to Jeffrey Needle, the city’s stormwater engineer. Brooks Lane, White Drive, Rhodes Villa Avenue and Hibiscus Road also can flood during high tides and especially during king tides, he said during a cruise along the Intracoastal aboard the Lady Atlantic yacht.
    Ana Puszkin-Chevlin, the city’s sustainability officer, organized the Oct. 11 cruise to educate the public about king tides — the highest of the high tides. Sea walls are best seen from the water, she said.
    The owners of the Lady Atlantic offered the yacht, staff and light bites free to the city.
    In Delray Beach, the next king tides will be 8:41 a.m. Nov. 5 and 9:32 a.m. Nov. 6, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website.
    Delray Beach has several projects underway to address tidal flooding and sea-level rise.
    In Veterans Park, Delray Beach is upgrading sea walls and replacing docks.
    The city’s Community Redevelopment Agency is paying the estimated $643,700 for the work that includes raising the sea walls to 20 inches above the average water level in the Intracoastal and making the sea walls level for the entire 400-foot length to the Atlantic Avenue bridge. That work should be finished in January.
    On the south side of Atlantic Avenue, design work for the stretch along the city’s marina will be finished in the next few months. Construction will begin in the next financial year, which starts in October 2018.
    The third piece, along Marine Way, will be complicated, Needle said.
    The one-block stretch — from Atlantic to Southeast First Street — has a roadbed decayed from tidal flooding, private and unauthorized docks, a sea wall that is no longer usable and various regulatory agencies involved, he said.
    The Wantman Group has a $284,373 contract for a conceptual plan and site analysis.
    “We need to find out what’s allowed before we meet with the private property and business owners along Marine Way,” Needle said.
 The public meetings could start as soon as mid-November, he said. The design work should be finished in mid-March.
    Separately, the city will start a sea wall vulnerability analysis of the entire Intracoastal Waterway, estimated at 21.4 miles, Needle said. The city owns less than a mile of the sea walls.
    On Oct. 17, the City Commission awarded $198,473 to Aptim Environmental & Infrastructure of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for the analysis. That work will be finished by the end of June.
    The goal is to create a minimum sea wall height and a sea wall ordinance for property owners along the Intracoastal, Needle said.
    Also aboard the Lady Atlantic, Nancy Gassman explained how Fort Lauderdale created its sea wall ordinance. As the assistant public works director for sustainability, she told the capacity crowd about how the city, known as the Venice of America, was able to pass its ordinance.
“It was clear that a minimum sea wall level was needed to address nuisance flooding,” she said.
    In 2016, the city set a minimum height for its sea walls at 3.9 feet above the high tide water mark. All new sea walls must meet the standard, she said. Rebuilt ones where more than 50 percent of the sea wall is reconstructed will have to comply.
    By 2035, the city wants to have all sea walls at that height, she said.
    Fort Lauderdale was among the first to use one-way check valves to control tidal flooding.
    To make sure the tides flow properly through its valves, the city maintains them quarterly, Gassman said. The valves also are checked before every king tide to clean out barnacles and mangrove roots that block the water flow.

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