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Segment 1: it's working

Estero Boulevard's new center storm drain passed its first major test. 

June 14, 2017
Jessica Salmond - News Editor ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Some Town of Fort Myers Beach residents have been skeptical from the beginning about the plausibility of the center lane storm drain on Estero Boulevard.

But after several heavy rainy days, Segment 1's drainage system seems to be operating as planned.

"We had staff driving it and checking during the rain and after," said Kaye Molnar, spokeswoman for ReFresh Estero Boulevard. "It's been working great."

Article Photos

Estero Boulevard remained mostly clear in Segment 1, even during the midst of the all-day rains on Wednesday, June 7.

According to the National Weather Service, the Fort Myers Beach area got between 8 and 10 inches of rain from June 5 to June 12, with some areas fluctuating above or below that range.

Segment 1, running from Crescent Street to Lovers Lane, is substantially complete. The rain successfully disappeared as the storms abated, draining to and percolating through the brick pavers in the center of the street. The pavers and the several layers of mesh and gravel below help to filtrate the water before it collects in the storm drain buried in the center of the road. From there, the water gravitationally flows to outfalls that run under select side streets and into the Back Bay.

Vice Mayor Tracey Gore has been one of the skeptics, but said she was happy to see the system working. She's a Segment 1 resident, so she drove around the island during and after the rains to survey the multi-million dollar stormwater project at work.

"The parts where it's completely done, it works," she said. "I was happy to see that. We were all skeptical if it was going to work, but we all want it to work."

Some finishing work is still being done in Segment 1 from School Avenue to Lovers Lane; the storm drains there are surrounded by a black fabric which keeps debris from dumping into the drain, Molnar said. This area may have drained more slowly than the rest of Segment 1, but it was still a success.

The streets in Segment 2 are another story.

The town and county are already underway in the area from Lovers Lane to Madera Road installing the sanitary sewer force main and new waterlines, but work on the center lane storm drain has not begun yet. And the difference was obvious last week after the rain: much of the boulevard and the side streets had pools of standing stormwater.

Fran Kennedy of Madison Court said it took until Monday for the standing water from last week's storms to completely dissipate. Most of last week, the road was so flooded that Kennedy and his wife Kathy had to walk barefoot through a foot of water to get to their home.

"I'm getting to the point where it's a real quality of life issue," he said. "But it doesn't seem to be a big issue at the town - it's falling on deaf ears."

Kennedy has attended many meetings to voice the plight of the flooding situation at Madison Court. After last week's rains, Kennedy said he drove around the rest of the island to see how the other streets fared, and believes his is the worst off. The whole street floods, and for the Kennedys, the water rises into their storage space on the ground level of their home.

Suzy Katt, another resident on Kennedy's street, said the residents have taken to referring to the flooding as "Lake Madison Court." Her home doesn't get the same amount of flooding as the Kennedys, but it's still an inconvenience, she said. The standing water also creates a mosquito problem.

"It takes 2-3 days to dissipate for all of us ," Katt said. "I get mosquito larvae in my mail box."

Another problem that's not as visible as the street flooding is the backyard flooding Washington Street residents experience, Katt said. It can take days to dissipate.

Madison Court is in Segment 2, but it could still be quite some time before the side streets see improvement. Madison Court is too narrow to have swales, or drainage ditches, and floods too heavily to be a candidate for a joint outfall. Kennedy attended a public meeting about the stormwater system several months ago, and his take was it could be a couple years before he gets relief.

"I'm getting sick of hearing, we want to keep the millage rate the same, people can't afford the increase," he said. "The streets that have been done are benefiting from what's been done and we're not, and we're paying the same."

Public Works Director Scott Baker said the town's engineering company, Tetra Tech, is drawing up the 30 percent plans to survey the rest of the island, street by street, as approved by council in March. These plans will give the town the tools it needs to determine "hot" flooding and stormwater-related problems on its side streets and have a better idea of what solutions can be implemented to fix them.

Town Council goes on recess in July, so Baker said he's hoping to have those 30 percent plans to the council in August - during budget talks.

But Baker is pleased with how both the town and county projects have operated so far in Segment 1.

"The basin-based area and outfalls in first phase have been perfect, no issues," he said.



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