Lake Worth Drainage District – We’re Not Gonna Take It!

This article was originally published by Al Zucaro on BocaWatch.org, preserved here now for historical purposes.
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No one disagrees that your mission is to keep water flowing through the 29 canal systems within your District boundaries, 4 of which are in Boca Raton. As residents, we understand the intention is to keep us safe during hurricane season, prevent residential flooding and the vegetation should have been removed years ago. Residents understand that the Lake Worth Drainage District has to do these things; however, has the line been crossed under the pretense to uphold those responsibilities?

Tensions within Boca Raton has been building about this issue since early January, when residents received letters notifying that a “necessary rehabilitation” would be taking place. Homeowners were expecting routine maintenance; instead, what they received were bulldozers in their backyards clearing out all vegetation. The recent measure to strip clear the canals of vegetation in our City has been an extreme measure after many years of minimal activity.

At July’s City Council meeting, our Deputy City Manager states, “they [the City] have had a rocky relationship [with Lake Worth Drainage District] in the past.” However, he admits “the people we are working with now are willing to discuss with us and look at options.” It is unfortunate for the residents who have already been cleared, but going forward the remaining Boca Raton residents want to know that if this clearing continues – it will not be tolerated.

TOO LATE FOR SOME

Many areas of Boca Raton have been cleared including some of the most pristine areas along Potomac Road and Palmetto Park Road. These roads were once lined with trees and were gorgeous. Do you think planting a tree three feet tall next spring will bring back that beauty? Above those three foot trees, everyone driving into our City will be looking at a medley of exposed fencing and private backyards. For years while these trees slowly grow, residents lose privacy, security and noise reduction. With these cherished characteristics of homes lost, so do the property values.

If this had happened in your backyard, would you be heartbroken?

In another area of Boca Raton, homeowners are disputing the authority to move their property lines. Surveyors came into their backyards with stakes and told residents that they did not own their property in their backyards. These stakes marked their new property lines at 10 feet from their bedroom windows. Some of these residents have been here for over 30 years. They are also contesting any clearing because their lots back up to a lake – not a canal. These properties are not even located in the Lake Worth Drainage District’s jurisdiction as a large portion of East Boca Raton was de-annexed by the District in 1951.

Conflict Resolution

Currently our city has initiated a conflict dispute resolution in hopes to come to a mutual agreement. The 3 objectives are:

  1. Boca Raton takes over all of the maintenance of canals.
  2. Boca Raton explores the option of entering into a high level maintenance agreement with LWDD, where the City can take over the maintenance of the canals in a manner more acceptable to the residents.
  3. Boca Raton to arrange an agreement for residents to replace lost vegetation by installing landscaping from an allowed list of species to enhance privacy.

Dear Lake Worth Drainage District, please work with our residents to come up with a better solution.

16 Comments
  • Jeff W.
    Posted at 06:45h, 31 July Reply

    I walk along Potomac Rd and have been amazed at the degree to which they removed vegetation… it really is a shame. I had assumed what they were doing was legal, but unfortunate. Millpond had a gorgeous South entrance that was well-maintained – now gone.

    They changed property lines or easements??? I would think that would be a major issue/lawsuit.

  • Janet Robinson
    Posted at 07:05h, 31 July Reply

    I realize that you are just talking about Boca but have you driven along Palmetto Park Road west of Turnpike? They are removing all the vegetation along the canal that runs along Palmetto and it looks horrible plus it’s going to make it hotter with less vegetation. They couldn’t just thin it out; why did they have to remove it all?

    • Randy
      Posted at 08:04h, 31 July Reply

      They are constructing a multi-use trail from 441 to A1A. Long in the planning.

  • Fernando Garcia
    Posted at 08:54h, 31 July Reply

    LWDD was use to handling South Florida when it was mostly agricultural areas. They have not evolved as they should have over the years as South Florida grew. People started complaining to our elected officials back in May. Its a shame they couldn’t have responded sooner residents complaints. Maybe some residents will get lucky.

  • jaime
    Posted at 11:06h, 31 July Reply

    Great article! It is crazy that the city did not get on them before this. It should not have gotten this far. Anyways I am glad people are now paying attention. and I am so glad you are bringing light to it.
    Thanks!

  • Allan Ward
    Posted at 13:48h, 31 July Reply

    Was the vegetation native or intrusive and invading? Do they want to replace it with native?

  • Joe
    Posted at 15:21h, 31 July Reply

    These are all in darinage easements that should never have been allowed to get this overgrown.
    The people who live adjacent to these easements that planted on them new this was an easement and were planting at their own risk.

  • Fernando Garcia
    Posted at 15:48h, 31 July Reply

    Some of it was nuisance vegetation, however, they just went in and removed everything. If LWDD had been doing routine maintenance more frequently it would not have gotten so overgrown. They cut down rubber trees and palm trees etc. Lots of wildlife habitat was lost.

  • Mark Rustvold
    Posted at 18:09h, 31 July Reply

    Have lived next to the L48 drainage ditch for 33 years where only minimal maintenance has ever been done. Please tell me why I should have expected this complete clear cutting of the area between my home and Palmetto Park Road. Even after 14 inches of rain in 8 hours there was only about four feet of water in the ditch and it completely absorbed into the ground in a few hours. Whatever city or county that you live in owns the swale in front of our home. But wouldn’t you be dismayed if they came through and plowed the swale up just because they owned the land?

  • Janell
    Posted at 21:58h, 31 July Reply

    Another example of poor communication and lack of leadership. Thank you to Boca Watch for looking out for the best interest of our city.

  • Sandy Alexander
    Posted at 13:04h, 01 August Reply

    What is your current status on the resolution…we are now trying to fight this same situation in Delray Beach, they have not maintained our non-maintenance side in over 25 years, they now want to remove everything. It’s very sad…I think there should be a happy medium that works for everyone.

  • Jmm
    Posted at 22:29h, 02 August Reply

    If this is what took place next to Tres Vida Townhomes on NW 2nd Ave, it looks awful now, no privacy.

  • Anny
    Posted at 15:25h, 23 August Reply

    Horrible work!!!!! My backyard do not look the same anymore. They took down 3 coconut 🌴 trees and a beautiful old tree that was the home for a lot of birds and iguanas that now you don’t see anymore. Every time that rains my backyard gets flooded!!!!! Who is the responsible for such a big disaster?

  • Christine
    Posted at 21:13h, 30 August Reply

    We are currently fighting the same situation in Delray and would welcome the input on the best way to do so should someone be willing to share.

    • Jessica Gray
      Posted at 12:40h, 31 August Reply

      Hi Christine! I would suggest sharing your frustration with your City Council. That helped here! It is such a shame.

  • Dennis
    Posted at 15:47h, 08 October Reply

    Im in Lake Worth, just got their letter in the mail today. Purchased my home Nov 2019 and the oak trees in my backyard next to the L-19 Canal were one of things I love about the property. They say they plan to start in Jan 2021.. Is there any way to stop them from doing this? Or at least scale back to trimming instead of ruining the local animals habitat by ripping the trees out? Seeing their before and after photos are truly gut wrenching. They have plenty access to the canal from the opposite side, dont understand why such an extreme plan to change the face of our neighborhoods… and for what???

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