By Dan Moffett
Gulf Stream commissioners are poised to begin a year of planning and deliberation to prepare for some significant construction projects aimed at improving the town’s defenses against king tides and storm surges.
The work ahead comes in response to an engineers’ report in December that identified a half-dozen upgrades needed to address vulnerabilities in the town’s stormwater drainage system.
“I think the rest of this calendar year is a planning year,” Town Manager Greg Dunham told the commission during its meeting on Jan. 11. “A year for planning, design, risk assessment and bidding out the projects.”
Dunham said construction should begin in 2022. It is likely to take months to complete.
In December, consultants from West Palm Beach-based engineering firm Baxter & Woodman recommended replacing and adding more Intracoastal drainage valves, regrading stretches of low-lying streets — in particular, the west ends of Banyan Road and Palm Way — and working with owners of The Little Club to upgrade areas at the golf course.
Dunham said the town is already shopping for the valves and estimates put their cost at about $68,000. Installation is expected to begin this year. Other improvements will be more complicated.
Jeff Hiscock, one of engineering consultants who wrote the report, put it simply to Dunham: “You guys need a pond.”
The idea is to construct a retention/detention pond that would help collect stormwater in low-lying areas before discharging it into the town’s drainage system.
Dunham knows something about these ponds. “I’ve done that in Ocean Ridge,” he told the commission. Dunham was the town manager there from 1998 to 2002 and implemented a stormwater study that led to the winning of several grants and loans to build the town’s detention pond at Woolbright Road and State Road A1A. The pond remains an important piece of Ocean Ridge’s drainage network today.
One thing Gulf Stream doesn’t have to worry about is ready cash. The town has about $5.6 million in unrestricted reserves that can be put to work on upgrades.
“It’s great to be able to make these improvements and still be in good financial condition,” said Commissioner Paul Lyons.
Also during the January meeting, the commission unanimously approved the first reading of an ordinance that updates coastal management policies in the town’s comprehensive plan. The amendments go hand in hand with the proposed drainage improvements and satisfy the state Legislature’s order that municipalities adjust to rising seas.
The statewide focus on king tide response comes in the wake of a South Florida Water Management District study that found the average high tide has risen about 6 inches over the last 35 years and could rise more than twice that by 2070. Ú