By Stuart Fischer
Special to the Sun Sentinel
May 20, 2021 10:25 AM
As we approach hurricane season, many community associations, golf courses and municipalities are still reeling from the flooding and dangerous shoreline erosion that resulted from some of last year’s storms.
Even without major storms, shoreline erosion is inevitable and results from continually fluctuating water levels from heavy rainfall and constant wave action destroying land-stabilizing root systems in your waterways.
While we can’t predict when these natural disasters will occur, we can anticipate that shorelines will gradually erode. It’s important to repair these shorelines with a variety of cost-effective measures. Now is a great time for community associations, municipalities and golf courses to take stock of their shorelines so that erosion and possible damage to homes can be avoided before hurricane season.
First, let’s take a look at the effects of hurricanes and the accompanying water-level fluctuations causing erosion:
- Homes become flooded and backyards erode into canals and rivers.
- Stable land along waterways begins to collapse, dangerous conditions result for people accustomed to walking in their backyards or in parks. Also, the collapsed land is unsafe for maintenance and landscape workers using heavy equipment.
- Many of these situations are magnified along golf courses and HOA inland waterways where many injuries have occurred to players and workers.
- In many cases, unmanaged stormwater drains cause severe erosion resulting in costly repairs to cities and community associations.
When it comes to safeguarding Florida communities, it frequently involves monitoring situations that aren’t in plain sight.
This is the case with stormwater systems, an interconnected network of ponds, pipes and overflow structures that prevent communities from flooding. These systems are responsible for conveying runoff away from homes, streets and parking lots. If these highways for water become impaired with grass clippings, sediment, or algae, neighborhoods and homes are likely to flood.
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As you can imagine, this intricate and delicate system is severely taxed during frequent heavy rains and hurricanes. Community associations should continually monitor their stormwater systems to prevent catastrophic consequences during hurricane season. Ensuring these structures are clean should be part of an ongoing stormwater system management program and should be implemented as the rainy and hurricane seasons approach. Some signs that the drainage systems aren’t working properly include:
- Water stays on streets longer than usual following heavy rains
- Slow water flow into stormwater drains
- Water higher than usual in lakes, ponds or canals
- Holes or depressions forming near ponds banks or stormwater structures
The bottom line is that water will always go somewhere. If your stormwater system is not properly maintained and serviced, the result could be devastating flooding and severe shoreline erosion. In short, without proper maintenance, this water could very well end up in your living room.
Now is the time for Florida associations, golf courses and municipalities to assess their damage and start taking steps to minimize damage in the event of a storm. It’s important to take a look at the washouts from poor drainage and check the shorelines from water level to assess the actual damage. From this vantage point, you’ll likely see how water has encroached under the turf, a condition which also can result in burrowing animals (otters, fish, etc.) causing further destabilization of the land.
There have been several solutions that re-create “living shorelines” as the concerns for our environment increase. Many of these systems are designed environmentally friendly, affordable and long-lasting. These alternatives have been increasingly considered by several municipalities, golf courses and communities across the state. Waterfront managers are moving away from hard-armoring structures being that they often require heavy machinery and are less cost-effective.
Waterfront property has great value and those in charge of maintenance should accept the inevitability of shoreline erosion. Property management firms, association directors and golf course superintendents are advised to maintain these shorelines with the same care and vigilance that is exercised with other amenities.
Stuart Fischer is director of operations for Boca Raton-based Lake and Wetland Management, a full-service environmental resource management company serving HOA’s, community development districts, municipalities and golf courses throughout Florida for over 29 years. Visit lakeandwetland.com.