Raw Video: Water rushes over weir
System lowers water in Golden Gate Estates.
COLLIER COUNTY — Golden Gate Estates is like a big bathtub when it rains too much, but the drain hole is unplugged, Big Cypress Basin director Clarence Tears said Monday.
Collier County's top water manager stood on the bank of a canal of rushing water west of Airport-Pulling Road at the headwaters of the Gordon River to reassure soggy Estates residents miles upstream that the drainage system is working.
"The system is moving water as quickly as possible," said Tears, whose job is to manage the local arm of the South Florida Water Management District.
Heavy rains over the weekend, combined with an already wetter-than-normal October, combined to leave yards and roads flooded in the Estates and Tears' phone ringing off the hook with complaints Monday morning. The Basin has received no reports of flooded homes.
Water was over roads Monday morning east of Everglades Boulevard along 39th Avenue, 41st Avenue and 48th Avenue Northeast; earlier flooding across Everglades Boulevard at 50th and 52nd avenues had receded by Monday, Collier County spokeswoman Connie Deane said.
It could be another week or more before some parts of the Estates are rid of floodwaters. The canal system, which relies on gravity to drain to the Gulf of Mexico, can drop water levels an inch a day, Tears said. He urged patience.
"It is what it is," said Fred Guilmette, a 20th Street Northeast homeowner. "That's the bottom line. We'll just have to live with it."
Guilmette said he was alarmed when he saw the water flowing backward in a nearby canal, but he said he takes Tears' word for it that the Basin is doing everything it can. While he waits, Guilmette said he doesn't even want to let his dogs out in his flooded backyard for fear of them getting sick from water contaminated with feces from his neighbors' horses.
On Eighth Street Northeast, homeowner Maxine Bailey said she doesn't think the water levels are falling fast enough.
"In the past it would be moving like a river," she said.
Unlike urban areas, where drainage systems are built to handle a "1-in-25" year storms, the Estates system is designed to handle a "1-in-10" year storm, or about the amount of rain that fell over the weekend.
Tears said canal water levels rose 2 feet overnight Friday. Unusually high tides over the weekend kept water from draining as quickly at the lower end of the system and into Naples Bay.
"The system has its limitations," he said.
Maps prepared by the Basin show almost 6 inches of rain fell between Friday and Monday morning at the fire station along Golden Gate Boulevard. Other rainfall totals are 8.3 inches at Interstate 75 and State Road 29, 6.3 inches at Marco Island and 5.4 inches in North Naples.
Collier County saw more than 10 inches of rain on average around the county in October compared to the historical average of 3.5 inches, according to the Basin.
The flooding — the worst since Tropical Storm Ernesto in 2006 — is proof that the county needs to get more serious about watershed management in the Estates, Golden Gate Estates Civic Association President Peter Gaddy said. A plan is 10 years overdue.
Gaddy said it is important to find places to store water in the Estates, other than people's yards, to build a buffer against the dry season and replenish underground drinking water supplies.
"We'll be burned out of here (by wildfires) if we don't have water now," Gaddy said.
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For real-time information about canal water levels and weir openings, go to my.sfwmd.gov/floodwatch/index.htm. The web address does not have “www” in front of it. The page takes several minutes to load.