Dredging city canals could cost $10-20 million

A survey of the city's 26 miles of saltwater canals showed that 13 miles have a depth of 6 feet or less.

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File photo
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Palm Coast's saltwater canals are deep enough, for the most part, and dredging them could cost $10-20 million, depending on the scope of the work.

Taylor Engineering consultant Terry Cake told the City Council on Aug. 8 that how many canals the city dredges, and how deep, will affect the cost. 

“Most of the main canals are in pretty good shape, given these canals have not been dredged in their approximate 50 years of existence," Cake said. 

Palm Coast selected Taylor Engineering to survey the canal system earlier this year after some canal-front property owners said shallow water depths make it hard for them to get their boats to the Intracoastal, especially at low tide.

The canals were originally 8 feet deep, Cake said. 

Taylor Engineering spent weeks conducting a bathymetric survey to measure the depth of all 26 miles of saltwater canals.

Most of the main canals are in pretty good shape ... Given these canals have not been dredged in their approximate 50 years of existence."
Terry Cake, Taylor Engineering consultant

The main canals are still about 8 feet deep, Cake said, but residential canals that branch off from them may only measure 2-6 feet deep at the centerline.

The difference is from shoaling — the buildup of sediment on the canal bed, Cake said.

Approximately 13 miles of canals are shallower than 6 feet at the centerline, Cake said. 

To restore them, the city would have to dredge 250,000-500,000 cubic yards of silt at a ballpark cost of $10-20 million.

Finding funding could be tricky. Most grants would require that the canals have public access points. 

“If there was a public boat ramp or two within the system, that would give us a better a better shot at those,” Cake said. “But there is not, and there's not really a good place to put one.”

Cake said the firm is now focusing on water quality-related grants because removing silt improves water quality.

City Manager Denise Bevan asked staff members at the meeting if the 2024 budget includes money for the next phase of the project. It does not. 

Taylor Engineering is reviewing other funding sources, but identifying the scope of the work will narrow where the firm will look, Cake said. 

Not all residential canals may need dredging, he said. For smaller watercraft, a 6-foot depth might be more than enough space.

The work would affect canals' centerlines, not sediment buildup under private docks.

Cake said the firm will ask the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to determine the allowable dredge depth for the project and begin the design process.

But first, Cake said, the council must choose which areas to dredge, and to what depth. 

Council member Nick Klufas said the council and staff should first ask residents who live along the canals. 

If this is just a small handful of people, we should look at just solving the problem for them."
Nick Klufas, Palm Coast City Council member

The council needs to know who can't navigate the canals due to shoaling, and how large their boats are, before the city spends money dredging canals that may not need dredging, he said.

“I think what I’m hearing is that this not a majority issue,” Klufas said. “If this is just a small handful of people, we should look at just solving the problem for them.”

Council members Ed Danko and Theresa Carli Pontieri disagreed. 

Pontieri said that spot dredging an area, then later having to re-dredge it, would cost even more.

"Just because a boat isn't in a home now that ... isn't going to displace a large amount of water, doesn't mean it won't be in the future," she said.

Danko agreed. He said limiting the work to spot dredging could handicap future homeowners.

The city should get estimates for a full dredging project now, Pontieri said. Later on, based on public feedback, it could remove some canals from the project.

"We should not cut ourselves short at this juncture, after we've gone through this much work," Pontieri said.

We should not cut ourselves short at this juncture after we've gone through this much work."
 Theresa Carli Pontieri, Palm Coast City Council member

Klufas asked why the city should spend $10-20 million to dredge all of the saltwater canals without first finding out which canals are too shallow.

"If we don't know where exactly the pain points are for our residents, I don't understand how we're talking about moving forward with this huge plan," he said.

Mayor David Alfin told Cake to return to the council with a recommendation for how deep the city should dredge the canals. 

The council will then decide whether to adjust that number, he said.


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