Policy Revisions That May Affect You

Policy changes to Docks, Davits and Boat Lifts provides improved flood control

As the agency responsible for local flood control, the District utilizes a Right-of-Way (ROW) Permitting program to manage its water resources and ensure proper stormwater drainage and unencumbered access to canal rights-of-way.

The ROW Permit is a revocable license granted to a permittee to occupy or utilize the District’s right-of-way. Boat docks are one example of a ROW Permit. The District may revoke a ROW Permit at any time, if determined to be in the best interest of the District’s flood control efforts. It is important for applicants to understand that any investment made in the right-of-way may be lost if the ROW Permit is revoked.

The personal use of the District’s right-of-way is a privilege and granted on a temporary basis to the permittee. The permittee is the person or entity to whom the right is granted. Only the person(s) or entities named on the face of the permit are authorized to use the right-of-way or make improvements that were constructed or installed in the right-of-way. For example, if you purchase a home with a dock in the canal, you are not authorized to use the dock until you transfer the permit into your own name. The rights of the permit are personal and are not automatically granted when a property is sold or transferred.

The District has a public duty to ensure that the canals perform in an optimal manner and ensure that uses within the canal and rights-of-way do not block the flow of water or create opportunities for storm debris to collect, causing the creation of a dam in the canal. For public safety reasons the District has modified its Operating Policy 3.6 regarding permits for docks, davits and boat lifts within its canal system. The modifications will mitigate risks to the District and the public as they pertain to flood control and emergency management, inefficiencies in the maintenance of the canal rights-of-way, and litigation/liability.

Highlights of the policy changes are:

  • Removal of the authorization for roofs on docks
  • Removal of the authorization for use of interlocking block revetment for erosion control
  • Revision to the allowable size of docks, davits, boat lifts
  • Limitations to location in canals and removal of non-compliant docks, davits, boat lifts
  • Requirement of proof of $300,000 general liability insurance

It is important for residents to understand these revisions are in place for their safety and those neighbors around them. Residents with a dock located adjacent to their property and with a non-compliant permit may have their permit revoked and be required to remove the structure. For more information or questions on the District’s Docks, Davits and Boat Lifts Policy, contact Shaughn Webb or Brian Tilles, P.E., at 561-498-5363 or email info@lwdd.net.

Algae Blooms

Most algae in District canals is not harmful to human health and provides a food source for aquatic life 

Algae are simple organisms that grow through photosynthesis, a process by which sunlight is used to metabolize nutrients. Algae are a basic component of the food chain and can be found in marine, estuarine, fresh water lakes, canal systems and even swimming pools. Algae appear as green, red or yellowish-brown particles that float on the water surface.

Most algae found in District’s canals, while visually unappealing, are not harmful to human health. However, some types, like “Blue-green” algae, which is a cyanobacteria, secrete toxins that may be harmful. The algae toxins can be inhaled by people living around the waterbody. It will aggravate respiratory illnesses like asthma. Symptoms of exposure to toxic algae include difficulty breathing, wheezing, skin rashes, headaches, and possibly tingling in the fingers and toes if the water was consumed.

Although algae are a normal component of an aquatic ecosystem, nutrient-rich waters warmed by the summer sun, provide a favorable medium for the overgrowth. This overgrowth is called an ‘algae bloom’. Herbicide or chemical treatments for the removal of algae uses a heavy metal compound that may adversely impact the waterbody. Since algae is a food source for aquatic animals and does not impact flood control operations, the District does not regularly treat its canal system for algae blooms. Most algae growth in our canals is harmless and will dissipate on its own or will be flushed out after a heavy rainfall.

Additional information on algae toxins can be found at the US Environmental Protection Agency and the Center for Disease Control website at www.epa.gov/nutrientpollution/harmful-algal-blooms.

Controlling Aquatic Plants

Two different methods are used for more efficient control of aquatic vegetation growth 
Lake Worth Drainage District regularly treats and removes aquatic vegetation in canals to maintain the flow of water and facilitate effective flood control for communities in Southeastern Palm Beach County. To accomplish this task, the District utilizes both mechanical and herbicide treatment to remove unwanted vegetation.

Containment Boom

Recently, the District has expanded its mechanical removal of aquatic growth with the use of containment booms. Containment booms are floating ribbon-like structures that span the canal cross-section and extend approximately one foot both above and below the water surface. As water flows through a canal or as winds move across the water’s surface, floating debris will move through the canal network. The booms serve as a physical barrier, “corralling” the debris while allowing water to continue to flow unimpeded. Installed at critical locations in order to concentrate floating vegetation and other debris, the booms allow District staff to more effectively collect, treat and dispose of the material.

Herbicide Application

Given the proliferation of aquatic vegetation in Florida’s subtropical climate, it remains necessary to continue the use herbicide treatment to control vegetation growth. When applying herbicides, the District strictly adheres to the rules and regulations established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). Staff applying chemical treatments are trained and certified annually on the proper application and handling of all herbicides used. Periodically, the District receives calls from residents regarding an odor detected after the application of herbicides. Although this concern by residents is understandable, it is important to know that the odor is an expected occurrence the oil emulsion that is mixed with the herbicide. Emulsion herbicides are a thicker consistency, allowing the herbicide to adhere to the vegetation so that it stays in place long enough to be effective.

With more than 500 miles of canals, the District is continually conducting maintenance of its canal system. Effective flood control and your safety is dependent on well-maintained canals.

Storm-Related Debris Removal

What you should know about storm debris removal 

Following a storm event, the District conducts immediate post-storm assessments, inspecting water control structures and clearing debris from canals and rights-of-way. Debris reports submitted by staff or property owners are individually reviewed and prioritized for vegetation removal as follows:

  • High Priority – Vegetation is in the water and threatening drainage.
  • Medium Priority – Vegetation is blocking the right-of-way and encumbering access or vegetation is significantly leaning over waterway and could be a potential future threat to drainage.
  • Low Priority – Vegetation originating on the District right-of-way and significantly occupying or fallen onto private property. (Please note, the District will not dispatch crews for removal of individual branches or to trim trees that are not leaning more than 50% on private property).

Vegetation that has fallen or leaning from the District right-of-way into private property but does not threaten flood control will be scheduled for removal after the District has completed removal of high and medium priority vegetation. The District estimates that removal of medium priority vegetation will be completed by the end of the 2017.

Private property owners that wish to trim vegetation that has fallen or is leaning on their property from the District’s right-of-way may do so at their discretion and expense. Any debris from trimming or tree removal by property owners must be disposed of by the property owner or, if applicable, the contractor performing the work.It is unlawful to place any debris on canal rights-of-way and illegal dumping will be reported to authorities.

If access to the District’s right-of-way is necessary to trim or remove vegetation, the property owner should receive prior approval from the District for right-of-way access and provide an executed hold harmless agreement.  Likewise, if the District must access private property to remove vegetation, the property owner must provide an executed hold harmless agreement prior to start of work.If fallen debris has damaged personal property, the individual property owner should contact their insurance company to submit a claim. The District will not directly reimburse property owners for damage. Email your debris removal questions to info@lwdd.net.