Along the Coast: The tide of change

7960536278?profile=originalWORKING: The town of Ocean Ridge spent $450,000

to finish a drainage and pump project last year on Coconut Lane,

a street that used to flood on a regular basis. Photographed at peak high tide, the system is working.

7960536492?profile=originalNOT YET: Sarah Mitchell looks for a better photographic angle

in the waters flooding Marine Way in Delray Beach during an event held to highlight flooding impact.

The city plans more improvements to help control flooding on this street and in other neighborhoods.

Photos by Jerry Lower/The Coastal Star

New drains, pumps, parking lots prevent flooding during king tides.

By Cheryl Blackerby

    Docked at Delray Beach’s marina, the sleek yacht named Amen rose to just 6 inches below the top of the seawall as local residents anxiously watched the tide come in.
    The king tides, the highest of the year, peaked at 10 a.m. on Oct. 8 and washed across the nearby narrow lane of Marine Way.
    Concerned neighbors waited to see if the water would rise as high, or higher, than last October, when high tides flooded Marine Way and the houses across the road.
    It didn’t. There was a collective sigh as the water receded before their eyes an hour later. Amen.
    Coastal residents marked the dates on their calendars, Oct. 8 and 9, when the king tides would arrive.
    Last year, those tides brought a foot of sea water onto Lantana’s beach parking lot, flooded streets in Briny Breezes, and swept over a portion of A1A in Manalapan.
    Because of new pumps and drains, new sea walls and raised parking lots, residents were relieved to see mainly dry streets on Oct. 8.
    Delray Beach’s historic Marina District still saw flooding but not as bad as last year because of a new drain. Four more drains will be installed this year, which is expected to further reduce flooding problems.
    Wearing rubber boots, John Morgan, the environmental sustainability officer for Delray Beach, walked in the sea water on Marine Way and pointed out the new drain that was helping keep the water level lower than last year.
    “We’re installing flex valves that keep sea water from coming in and lets the freshwater go out. The valve looks like a duck bill,” he said. Morgan was a speaker at the King Tide Education and Outreach event that was held at the Marina District at 10 a.m. Oct. 8 at high tide.
    The valves cost $20,000 each, including installation, Morgan said. The next four valves will be put along the marina.
    He called the valves a “stopgap measure.”
    “If the water comes over the sea wall, the valves are a moot point. We’ll have to raise the road at some point, and sink the sea wall farther underground,” he said, explaining that the porous ground under the road soaks up water like a sponge and will come up through the road.
    “This high tide is an indicator of how the water will be in the future,” he said.
    And that is a future that will include sea level rise, said Dr. Ana Puszkin-Chevlin, a Delray Beach resident and consultant on environmental land use planning and coastal hazard resiliency, who also spoke at the event.
    “Climate change is happening, and we need to plan appropriately,” she said. “Remember when Delray had 23 inches of rain in 12 hours? These events will become more frequent, and we have to plan for it.”

7960537063?profile=originalOPPOSITE SIDES OF THE MARINA: As part of its budgeted plans, Briny Breezes Inc. recently rebuilt

the bulkheads on the north side of its marina (above). The south side (below) has not been updated.

These photos, taken within one minute of each other, show the improvement.

7960536884?profile=originalPhotos by Jerry Lower/The Coastal Star   

Other towns have taken protective measures to guard against flooding from king tides, tropical storms and sea rise:
    • Briny Breezes. In Briny Breezes, the two roads that run alongside the water at the marina were a stark lesson on the need for proactive action on flooding. On the morning of Oct. 8, Dock Drive, where the bulkhead was raised and reinforced with a dirt sod barrier this year, was high and dry, while the parallel street, Bay Drive, which had no work done, was under water.
    Briny Breezes, Inc. had $110,000 committed to the project in early April.
    “So far, we’re cautiously optimistic,” said Tom Oglesby, who is on the Briny Breezes board of directors. “We’ve significantly reduced flooding from seasonal high tides. We will have to decide what the best solution for other roads is.”
    • Lantana. The town raised its beach parking lot about a foot after continuous flooding in recent years.
    “It used to flood really bad, anywhere from six inches to a foot of sea water in the parking lot,” said Jerry Darr, Lantana utilities director. “We raised it a foot in July and August, and it has been dry.”
    The parking lot project — including replacing parking meters — was budgeted at $51,000.
    The town installed one tide-flex or duckbill valve, similar to those in Delray Beach, in July that will keep the rising water out, he said. “We’ve used them on a couple of other projects and they’ve worked really well,” Darr said.
    The town also installed two pump stations, one on North Atlantic Drive and the other on Beach Curve Road, at a cost of about $800,000 for both.  “We need more pressure to push water out during storms,” he said.
    • Ocean Ridge. The town finished a drainage and pump project on Coconut Lane last year and is installing a new drain on Eleuthera Drive. The Coconut Lane project cost $450,000 and the Eleuthera project will cost $200,000, including pumps and engineering.
    “There’s a huge difference on Coconut,” said Ken Schenck, Ocean Ridge town manager. “In the cul-de-sac, it could get two feet of water there during a hard rain on a high tide, but now it hasn’t flooded.”
    • Manalapan. The Florida Department of Transportation is upgrading the catch basins on A1A, which had some flooding in front of Eau Palm Beach Resort and Spa during October’s king tides. In 2009, a $10.4 million, state-financed project was completed along the three-mile stretch of State Road A1A south of Eau Palm Beach. The project raised the level of the roadbed 18 inches and improved drainage, landscaping, signs and lighting.

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