The good news: A town staff-conducted survey reveals the majority of the town’s canals are still deep enough for boat traffic and don’t need dredging.
The bad news: The canals won’t stay clear of sediment forever, and the town needs to start putting more money aside for a future dredging project that will cost millions of dollars.
The Longboat Key Town Commission reviewed a report from Public Works Director Juan Florensa at its Dec. 11 regular workshop about the state of the island’s canals.
The town last performed a major canal-dredging project in 2003, when it dredged 53 canals at a cost of $2,400,375. That project was the product of several years of work from a canal maintenance financing advisory committee and residents who deemed it necessary to dredge the canals in the 1990s.
Florensa reported that his staff used the town’s police boat to survey almost every inch of the town’s canals at 200-foot intervals.
“Our canals aren’t that big of an issue yet,” said Florensa, noting there are a few areas of concern, but none that prompt him to recommend a dredging project at this point.
“Residents are also not calling to complain about canals being too shallow like they were in 2003,” Florensa said.
Florensa suggested the town obtain public input on canal dredging funding.
After the town’s 2003 canal dredging project, the commission set aside $100,000 annually for canal dredging. But the annual funding stopped in 2008, when the town began reallocating money due to plummeting property-tax revenues.
The town currently has $400,000, plus $90,000 in infrastructure surtax dollars, set aside for canal dredging purposes.
“The bottom line is you don’t face anything now like you did in 2003,” Bullock said. “You have some spots that need touched up, but your best indicator for problems will be heard from boaters, and they don’t have any issues right now.”
The commission, though, agreed to come up with a game plan for canal dredging when the time comes.
Bullock said the town will keep the $400,000 “protected” and discuss other ways to “build up that account for our next canal dredging project” in the future.
The commission agreed to revisit the canal dredging issue in budget discussions next year.
“We can discuss it in the future and dredge it all up again,” said Commissioner Jack Duncan.
Contact Kurt Schultheis at email@example.com