Palm Coast - The City of Palm Coast's stormwater drainage system was built by ITT in the 1970s and '80s, when the population was one tenth of its current size. Now, after years of growth, an aging infrastructure and two hurricanes that put a spotlight on drainage issues, the City is embarking on an enhanced, comprehensive stormwater management plan to improve drainage system-wide.

A City-wide Master Plan is under development with completion scheduled for this summer. Even before the plan is ready, the City has launched an aggressive ditch maintenance program to target overgrowth of aquatic vegetation and plans are being developed to address localized drainage issues in the W, E, F and R sections in the near future.

A major drainage improvement project in the W Section will get underway in the first week of February. The Public Works Department will be cleaning and regrading the ditch system between Woodside Drive and Pine Lakes Parkway, including cleaning cross drains under roadways. Water levels in the canal that runs through the W Section will be intentionally kept lower than usual during the work.

"Most of our stormwater drainage system was built 35 to 40 years ago, and it's performed well to protect homes from flooding over the years," said Palm Coast Mayor Milissa Holland. "But after Hurricane Irma in 2017, we discovered there were some areas that needed more attention than what routine maintenance can provide. That's when the City Council approved a comprehensive and very proactive plan that will be carried out in the coming months and into the future."

The new Master Plan will consider all aspects of the drainage system - taking a big-picture look at the swales, ditches, canals, water control structures, pipes, and drainage basins and how they work together to protect homes and businesses from flooding, said Mike Peel, the City Engineer. The new solutions to be developed will focus more on the ditches and freshwater canals and will have a greater long-term impact on improving the drainage system across Palm Coast.

LiDAR, a high-resolution surveying and mapping technology, and the latest stormwater computer modeling technology are being used to help develop the Master Plan. A consultant for the City and City staff will submit a comprehensive report to City Council by August. Recommendations will likely include freshwater canal dredging, ditch cleaning (in addition to the spraying), and improvements for water quality as well as for conveyance and storage of stormwater.

Projected costs will be provided during the planning process, and the computer modeling will help identify the most cost-effective options, Peel said. The enhanced stormwater management program will be funded by revenues from the stormwater fee, which was increased last fall.

A pair of public outreach meetings to discuss the new stormwater management plan will be held at 2 and 6 p.m. Monday, March 25, at the Palm Coast Community Center, 305 Palm Coast Pkwy. NE.

"Up until now, much of our focus has been on short-term solutions," said Don Schrager, the City's Construction Site Supervisor. "While swale work is important, the benefits are localized to the properties where the work is performed."

"It comes down to being able to move the water - if you improve the canals, the ditches drain better; if you improve the ditches, the swales drain better," Schrager said. "By devoting more resources to improving the entire system's ditches, canals and stormwater piping, the water will move better and the benefits will be seen across neighborhoods everywhere."

As part of the new system-wide management plan, the Stormwater Division will be reassessing the City's swale maintenance program. Following Hurricane Irma in 2017 and the rain events that came in the weeks and months after the hurricane, the City's list of needed swale projects has gotten backlogged.

Residents who believe their swale needs to be regraded may still request an inspection and, if it is determined City maintenance is needed, that residential street is added to the list of needed swale projects. But the backlog means the City may not get to projects for a significant period of time. The City currently utilizes a GIS mapping system to track pending projects to ensure the projects remain in the scheduling pipeline until they can be scheduled and completed.

In the meantime, there are some simple, yet significant, steps property owners should follow for routine swale maintenance, to minimize standing water:

  1. Mow and maintain swale at an acceptable grass height. Tall grass slows water movement.
  2. Do not fill in your swale or install a drain pipe from property line to property line.
  3. Keep driveway culvert ends open by removing debris, grass and dirt. Blow grass clippings back onto grass or landscaped areas.
  4. Repair erosion from along the sides and under your driveway.
  5. Do not have roof drains running onto the driveway or directly into the right of way.
  6. Remove erosion that has built up in the bottom of the swale that could potentially block the flow of water including (trash, leaves, limbs and grass).
  7. Do not use an edger along the sides of your driveway.
  8. Do not park on or drive across your swale. Cars and their tire tracks block the water flow.
  9. Minimize the use of fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides within 50 feet of a swale.
  10. Install plants/landscaping at least 15-20 feet from the road; they still add beauty, but leave the swale functional.

Additional information about swales and how to determine if a swale issue should be reported to the City can be found online at www.palmcoastgov.com/stormwater. Select the "swales" tab.

For more information, contact Cindi Lane, APR, Communications & Marketing Manager, at clane@palmcoastgov.com and 386-986-3708.