By Steve Plunkett
The clock may be down to its final few ticks on $2.5 million in grants and county money to make over Lake Wyman.
Rob Robbins, director of the county’s Environmental Resources Management Department, told City Council members that the project must be completed by September 2013 to collect $2.1 million from the Florida Inland Navigation District.
But before the first shovel can turn any dirt, the county, city and FIND must work out agreements and the county needs to go out for bids and then review them.
“We have a goal-setting session a month or so from now. Can you wait that long, because there’d have to be a council meeting after that to say yea or nay?” City Manager Leif Ahnell asked at the April 9 workshop session.
“We can live with a month,” Robbins answered.
The county hopes to get $383,176 in local matching money for the navigation district’s grant from the city, the Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District or both. Ahnell said the city should budget $50,000 a year on top of that for annual maintenance and to clean the canals again in 2033.
“I don’t know where this problem is of coming up with money. We can just do it,” Council Member Michael Mullaugh said, citing a pending $70,000 savings on an unrelated contract.
Christine Cherepy, president of the Golden Harbour Homeowners Association, repeated her group’s demand for outside studies on whether the project would silt canals in her neighborhood or boost the mosquito population.
“We strongly oppose submerging almost 4 acres of land,” Cherepy said.
Robbins said his department does bathometric surveys before, during and after any restoration project to make sure fill is not migrating. And the Mosquito Control Division, which he supervises, has concluded “that increasing the flushing through the mangrove area will reduce the number of mosquitoes,” Robbins said.
Supporters of the project took advantage of the public comment portion of the April 24 council meeting.
“There’s no doubt that the Lake Wyman project is vital to this area in many ways,” Laura Castanza, chair of the city’s Green Living Advisory Board, said.
“It would make the city a lot more exciting, as far as like really nice canoe trails,” said Curtis Petruzzelli, a senior at Boca Raton High School.
“Our estuary has been degraded and ignored for far too long, and if left alone it will only get worse,” said Steve Alley, chair of the Environmental Advisory Board, which unanimously recommended approval.
Joe Chaison, a member of the Marine Advisory Board who helped develop the proposal, urged council members not to pass up the grant money.
“If we decide not to take this opportunity to partner with the county and FIND, the existing problems and the existing maintenance obligations won’t go away,” he said.
The project would remove 11 acres of Australian pines and Brazilian pepper from FIND’s spoil island and two smaller islands created in the 1930s when the Intracoastal was dredged. FIND’s island would be scooped out to create a 3.3-acre basin for seagrass with a dock for day boaters.
About one mile of canoe trails would be restored to increase mangrove flushing and make the trails passable at low tide.
An observation platform and picnic and beach areas would be added, and the board-walk would be extended. Ú