January 17, 2008

At the November Board meeting, Charles Dodd a resident, reported that significant outflow of canal water was occurring through a breach in the side wall earth berm forming the 2,600 ft Swale located in the St Andrews section now officially part of the Preserve.  John Aspiolea, the State Park Preserve Manager joined Norb Zoltowski and I on Nov. 28 to evaluate the situation.


We found that the outflow that was reported at the beginning of November had stopped at the current canal level of approximately 2 ft above sea level (2’-1”).  This was determined by averaging weirs 1 & 7 overflow height as a 3 ft. reference.  Note- An additional drop in canal water level of 4 to 5 inches has occurred as of December 8, 2007.

We asked John if he could help us out and plug the gap observed in the Swale earth berm since we would like our canal level to be 3 ft. above sea level [6 ft. depth] at the beginning of the dry season not 2 ft. [5 ft. depth].

The present Gap is about 10 to 15 ft wide. John said he would like to help; however, such maintenance was a County responsibility not the State since they were granted an easement and right-of- way for such purposes. He said that we should be talking to the County. He also  pointed out that the breach in the 2,600 ft man made swale side wall is at a pre-existing natural swale drainage path to the east branch of Coral Creek and what we are seeing is Nature trying to restore the natural flow. John feels that plugging it would increase Rotonda flood potential. We indicated that the Development Permit granted the creation of a Canal [Rotonda River] outflow structure through this area with a grassy filter structure to filter Rotonda discharge water and this breach outflow path was not part of the Stormwater Drainage System design schematic. He said what is needed are detail drawings defining the swale berm structure that was built instead of the Canal or a new hydrology study performed.  Note- the Rotonda River canal approved by the DER was never built because FDEP [successor organization] stopped Developer construction underway in the St. Andrews section.

Since the County has told us they did not accept any such maintenance/repair responsibility for these structures just emergency access, we then asked if the RWA could plug this breach gap or restore overflow weir # 5 at the Swale entrance [River end] to 3 ft. as a better alternate solution.  It is a better solution since the breach would remain and the additional outflow through it would reduce flood potential.   He said no, he only recognizes the County as having the right of access for this drainage easement maintenance as the Grantee.

Furthermore, in his opinion, the County in accepting this drainage easement agreement as Grantee also accepted the maintenance for the existing stormwater drainage structures in it i.e. was paid to accept this responsibility by the Developer as part of the States Purchase agreement.  Note- In our previous mtgs. with County officials they do not agree with this opinion (see Mtg with Stormwater County Management, May 1, 2007 report).  In this mtg. they stated that no maintenance was accepted just emergency access and they would only consider doing annual maintenance for these structures after they were repaired.  Annual maintenance would then be funded via the West County Stormwater Utility Taxing Unit and Funds for this are not in their 2008 budget.

Note- the Indenture agreement between the Developer and County stipulates that it is a nonexclusive agreement with the Grantor (developer, heirs, successor or assigns) retaining access rights. It is our thought that the RWA would have a right of access to this area if desired as an assign or successor to the Developer i.e. the Permittee.

The following is the actual wording from the Indenture agreement: “…transfer unto Grantee, an easement and right-of-way for ingress, egress, construction and maintenance of surface and/or underground drainage across the following described property ……”  [ PROP]    “ …. This is a nonexclusive drainage easement with the Grantor reserving unto itself, its heirs, successors or assigns, the right to the continued free use and enjoyment of the property herein described, for any purposes which are not inconsistent with the rights granted herein unto the Grantee.”


As you can see at this juncture we are in a “catch-22” situation and there will be no early resolution to the 2 ft level breach.  Therefore, since this condition will continue to exist and only worsen with continued outflow erosion, we should initiate efforts on conserving canal water as noted in our Aquatic Canal System (ACS) five year master plan. Volunteer action for this activity is presently being organized under the Aquatic & Marine Habitat subcommittee according to its chair Bob Winter.  Interested residents should contact him.

The biggest factor in canal water level control after outflow leakage is irrigation drawdown by canal residents and the golf courses.  A study should be initiated to estimate worst case irrigation draw down relative to an average annual rainfall of input of 52 inches falling in our watershed.  Also, the feasibility of increasing the use of recycle water including the feasibility of providing recycle water to residents in addition to golf courses needs to be evaluated.  This volunteer effort should involve discussion with the Golf courses, County and local SWFWMD officials to help determine the best solution for all involved.  We do not want low water level, fish kill problems, unsightly canal conditions or loss of our golf courses reducing our property values.

In the meantime we will continue our efforts with the FDEP (Fort Myers), County & the Developer to restore the Overflow weirs (#5 & 6) to the 3 ft level at the ends of the river  to the permit # 08-24-3977M approved design.  See the ACS 5yr. Master Plan/Appendix for additional detail info, overhead photo’s, breach photo’s, etc.  The ACS Plan & Appendix is available in the Office and the ACS Plan on our web site www.rotondawest.org  under the ACS committee link.

At this juncture, help from our State Representative and Senator will be sought in our discussions with FDEP; along with further discussions with Commissioner Moore and County officials in our continuing effort to resolve this complex issue.

Nick Gizzi , Norb Zoltowski
Canal Infrastructure & Stormwater Outflow Subcommittee Co-chairs

David Kelly (Rotonda Golf & Country Club)
John Aspiolea, State Preserve Manager
Tom Moore, County Commissioner
Tom O’Kane, County Public Works Director
Charles Dodd