By Steve Plunkett

The Lake Worth Drainage District has given homeowners along three canals in southwest Boca Raton a three-month reprieve from clearing canal banks while district and city officials search for a way to leave some vegetation alone.

“This postponement will allow the district and city the opportunity to work together and consider options for necessary canal rehabilitation on these canals prior to final action by the district’s board of supervisors on Oct. 17, 2018,” the board announced after its July 11 meeting.

The loudest outcry has come from residents along Southwest Seventh Street on the shore of Sabal Palm Lake, who have planted trees and shrubs, installed fences and built docks in what they thought were their backyards. But this year the drainage district told them the shore is actually the bank of its L-49 canal with a right of way or easements extending in some cases more than 50 feet from the water’s edge.

The district is in the midst of a years-long program to clear vegetation along the 500 miles of canals it maintains to prevent trees and bushes from toppling in a hurricane and blocking drainage.

Mayor Scott Singer asked the district to hold off work on the L-48, L-49 and L-50 canals so city and district officials can explore more global solutions. At an open house the district convened July 10 for homeowners, district officials said they would clear the banks using the smallest equipment possible.

“We’re trying to be as gentle as we can,” said Tony Las Casas, the district’s assistant director of facilities and maintenance.

City staff will evaluate options “that may include a higher level of maintenance provided by the city and/or negotiated agreements with homeowners to allow certain types of approved landscaping that do not interfere with LWDD access,” Boca Raton said on its website.

The district asked Boca Raton residents along the affected canals to “take proactive measures” for hurricane preparedness and sustainable tree maintenance “by pruning trees away from drainage canals and refraining from planting trees or vegetation on drainage or utility easements and public rights of way.”

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