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Palm Coast Council agrees to add salt water canal dredging to budget priorities

Posted on April 11, 2024

Palm Coast’s City Council has agreed to add the next phase of the salt water canal dredging project to its fiscal year 2025 Strategic Action Priorities.

The SAP items provide a guideline for city staff to design the next year’s budget around and can include a mix of general initiatives like improving economic resiliency and specific projects — like the salt water canal dredging.

Palm Coast selected the consulting and engineering firm Taylor Engineering to survey the city’s canal system in early 2023 after some canal-front property owners said shallow water depths make it hard for them to get their boats to the Intracoastal, especially at low tide.

Taylor Engineering spent weeks conducting a bathymetric survey to measure the depth of all 26 miles of saltwater canals. The main canals are still about 8 feet deep, but residential canals that branch off from them may only measure 2-6 feet deep at the centerline because of a buildup of sediment on the canal bed, a Taylor Engineering consult told the City Council last August.

According to the study, approximately 13 miles of canals are shallower than 6 feet at the centerline.

Restoring them to the 6-foot depth could cost an estimate of $10-20 million, Stormwater Engineer Carmello Morales said. Dredging the canals to 8 feet would be more, an estimated $28-58 million.

Conducting the survey was the first phase of the plan. Phase 2, Morales said, would establish a dredging depth, evaluate the canal and review the canals’ original design, among other tasks.

This phase is estimated to cost $46,500, Morales said, but would also provide a better understanding of how much work would need to be done and, therefore, more accurate cost estimates.

Phase 3, the design and permitting phase, would cost another $309,000 and Phase 4, the project bidding phase, another $115,000. Phases 2-4 combined would cost almost $471,000.

None of that includes the actual cost of dredging the canal, which has the multi-million-dollar estimates.

Council member Theresa Carli Pontieri asked Morales if — should the council later on approve a further contract with Taylor Engineering — the city could pull out of the contract after finding out the more accurate dredging cost estimates in Phase 2.

Pontieri said her concern would be entering into a $471,000 contract only to not complete the project because of the high dredging costs.

Morales said he would need to confirm with Taylor Engineering, but didn’t see any reason why that would not be possible.

The problem is funding sources for this type of project are limited, Morales said. When Vice Mayor Ed Danko said Morales about federal, state or other grant funding resources, Morales said most of those grants are for areas that need water quality improvements or have other disadvantages.

“In a nutshell our city’s salt water canals are a little bit too good to qualify for some of these [grants],” he said. “That’s a little ironic, because we’re identifying areas as potentially needing dredging. But there are some opportunities out there, but it’s challenging.”

Staff and Taylor Engineering would continue to pursue those grants, he said, as well as look at other potential sources of funding.

Staff also put together a five-question survey for residents to fill out about any issues they’ve seen along the canal.

Council member Theresa Carli Pontieri requested staff add a question about how residents living on the canals would feel about being a part of a special assessment to help pay for the maintenance of the canals.

“We need to really start considering whether or not a special assessment for people living on the canals is what needs to occur,” Pontieri said.

Pontieri said she wanted to get the public’s opinion on the idea and gather more information on the topic.

“There could be a lot of residents that live on the canals that say, ‘Hey, I don’t mind being assessed, just dredge my canals,'” she said.

The council did agreed though that the maintenance of the canal is still under the city’s responsibility to care for and should remain on of the city’s priorities.

“I still see it as our responsibility, though, to do that maintenance if it’s needed,” Danko said. “It’s been neglected in the past.”


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