Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Drainage Plan Gets Mostly Good Marks

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Drainage Plan Gets Mostly Good Marks

Article excerpt

PONTE VEDRA BEACH -- Recent heavy rains have tested the effectiveness of a drainage project in Ponte Vedra Beach and St. Johns County's plans to lower water levels in advance of a hurricane.

While some residents say the Guana River basin drainage system gets low marks in water level control, county officials said it passed.

"With all the money we spent on the drainage system, the water is not going down consistently," Ponte Vedra Boulevard resident Doug Crane said after the deluge this month caused street and property flooding that took days to drain.

But Mike Rubin, county director of construction, said, "The system is so effective that the [St. Johns River] water management district is scared we're going to dump all the water out of the basin into the Guana below."

But there were some glitches in the hurricane drill, which "didn't go smoothly," Rubin conceded. He called the first drill of the drainage gates and other parts of the water control system "a learning process. But it was a good exercise, a good dry run."

In 1997, the Ponte Vedra Municipal Service District initiated a project to clear cattails and other dense vegetation from the Guana River basin to aid stormwater flow. The $1.2 million project, paid for by the county and state, was completed last year with the construction of weirs, or water control structures, and culverts at key points in lagoons and the Guana River from Corona Road south to Micklers Landing. The waterway runs from Jacksonville Beach to Guana Lake.

The drainage project was done to protect the wetlands and to protect against flooding, and "it's tough to do both at once," said Steve Joca, president of Stone, Joca & Mahoney, drainage project engineers.

Channel clearing increased water flow and weirs were installed to control that flow.

"If you move too much water out of the system very quickly, the nutrients and fertilizers that got washed in will be delivered down into Guana Lake, which is designated as an outstanding Florida water," said Paul Haydt, Water Management District program manager.

"You're not supposed to degrade that water quality," Haydt said. …

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