River Cities

Miami Springs canal project to stop erosion along banks

A worker from Gator Dredging often goes into the North Esplanade Canal in Miami Springs to rearrange rocks that will be stacked up to the top.
A worker from Gator Dredging often goes into the North Esplanade Canal in Miami Springs to rearrange rocks that will be stacked up to the top. River Cities Gazette Photo

Erosion is a slow process. Sometimes the process can be seen by experts but if something isn’t done, serious damage might occur and costs could soar into millions of dollars.

The recent canal bank construction in Miami Springs along the North Esplanade Canal beginning at North Royal Poinciana Boulevard will stop dirt from slowly sliding into the waterway, causing trees to fall in and generating monumental costs for removal.

To keep this from happening, the city is spending $500,000 it received from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection Division of Water Restoration Assistance to combat embankment erosion.

The process involves installing a fabric material on the banks and systematically stacking boulders along the edges in the water and up the bank. The current state funds will pay for the project along the North Esplanade Canal up to Westward Drive. It began in mid-February with an estimated 60-day completion schedule.

The city has asked the state for an additional $700,000 to finish the project along South Esplanade up to Hunting Lodge Drive and the golf course.

“The interior canals are our stormwater outlets,” Public Works Director Tom Nash said. “Accumulated water goes out through these canals.”

Nash said the Esplanade embankments conditions were worse than any interior canal. He recalled years ago when a city mower could ride around the trees to maintain the grass. That’s no longer possible because the canal-side bank is gone.

Also, the roots of trees alongside the canals are clearly visible and if more dirt goes, so will the trees.

“We asked for $2 million from the state for the entire project for all the canals because that’s what the entire project will cost,” Nash said. “But what we get depends on the legislature.”

According to Nash, over the years the city has lost 50 percent of its canal banks. He said that about 15 to 20 years ago the city attempted to shore up the embankments but was unsuccessful.

At the Hunting Lodge end of the waterway where it meets the golf course, city workers have recently been working in the area removing trees and trying to keep others from falling and damaging houses. One 70-foot Australian pine fell and narrowly missed a nearby home at 2 a.m.

The area also had been overgrown for years and became home to iguanas, raccoons and other wild animals, including rodents that infested the area.

“We had to take immediate action in that area because we were losing a lot of land (canal bank),” Nash said.

Nash admitted that any major project such as the canal bank erosion project would probably have some impact on wildlife in the area; however, he wasn’t aware of any problems. He feels that the rocks will give wildlife more of a habitat.

Guardrails could be constructed along all the interior canals in the future, with the main consideration now being the cost: $300,000 that would have to come out of the city’s general fund.

Currently, workers for Gator Dredging are bringing in loads of natural rocks, carefully placing the bigger boulders in the canal and staking smaller rocks up the bank. A worker often gets into the canal and rearranges the placement of rocks while ducks swim around and watch.

“It’s never been done before in this city. Studies were done but the city couldn’t afford it,” Nash said. We were glad the money was appropriated by the state and we were able to get it. Over time, the rocks will weather and blend in with the landscape. It will look nice.”