As the 2018 hurricane season officially begins, South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) officials say the region's 8.1 million residents are safe from Everglades flooding.
With the rainy season in full effect, SFWMD -- largest of the state's water management districts -- has been busy inspecting and maintaining its 2,000 miles of protective levees.
"Our levees are an integral part of our flood protection system," said SFWMD Chief Engineer John Mitnik. "I am proud to assure residents as we head into the hurricane season that our levees, after having undergone rigorous inspections, are prepared to ensure the safety of all South Floridians."
SFWMD operates and maintains the regional water management system known as the Central and Southern Florida Project, which was authorized by Congress more than 60 years ago to protect residents and businesses from floods and droughts.
This primary system encompasses more than 2,100 miles of canals, 2,000 miles of levees and berms and more than 600 water control structures and 70 pump stations. Community drainage districts and hundreds of smaller neighborhood systems connect to SFWMD's regional system to effectively manage floodwaters during heavy rain events.
These crucial levees include those built by SFWMD as well as the ones built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and later transferred to SFWMD to operate and maintain.
SFWMD routinely inspects its levees to ensure their structural integrity and ability to provide flood protection. Many of the highest-priority levees in the system have had refurbishment work performed to keep them in optimum condition.
The District says an example of the safety inspection protocols and how well SFWMD's levees perform was evident last summer when heavy rains filled up the water conservation areas. Their eastern containment feature is the East Coast Protective Levee that separates the conservation areas from residents of western Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. SFWMD inspectors continually inspected this stretch of levee during those months of high water and found no deficiencies or problem areas.
In 2014 and 2015, SFWMD invested nearly $30 million upgrading approximately 71 miles of the East Coast Protective Levee that protects millions of residents in Broward and Palm Beach counties.
The upgrades to improve the levee's ability to hold water included flattening levee slopes, raising the levee heights in areas, building seepage berms, replacing older structures and minimizing encroachments on the levee. District ad valorem revenues funded the entire project.
The upgrades meet all FEMA standards and SFWMD certified the levee to FEMA as being able to withstand a 100-year storm event, which helped avoid potential increases in flood insurance costs for residents living in the levee floodplain. These efforts complement other works in Miami-Dade County, where the District is in the process of raising the banks of the C-4 Canal, improving flood protection for approximately half a million residents.
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