East County Water Control District is ringing in the New Year with cost saving measures and improvements to deteriorating infrastructure.
A culvert is a drain or a pipe that allows water to flow under a road, generally to connect two sections of flowing canals.
The district, based in Lehigh Acres, has more than 370 culverts in its system, many of which have been in place since the 1960s and 1970s. These older culverts are constructed of corrugated metal pipe that have been slowly deteriorating.
PHOTO SPECIAL TO THE CITIZEN
East County Water Control District crews work on culvert replacement.
ECWCD preserves and protects water reserves through drainage, conservation, mitigation, navigational and water management practices in Lehigh Acres - eastern Lee County - and the western portion of Hendry County.
In addition to the culvert crossing, the district maintains 22 bridges, 66 water control structures and maintains 1298 preserve acres within 70,000 acres of land.
ECWCD's 311- mile canal system and 20 lakes flow into the Caloosahatchee River via four outfalls: Orange River, Bedman Creek, Hickeys Creek and Carlos Waterway.
"When a culvert totally fails, there is a potential for flooding, property damage, or collapse of the roadway which could lead to wrecks causing injuries or loss of life," David E. Lindsay, district manager, said.
In 2013, the district plans to use an in-house, three-man crew to replace six corrugated metal pipe culverts with concrete culverts that have an anticipated lifespan of 50-100 years. This marks the fourth year of the district's in-house, culvert replacement project.
"By taking on in-house, special projects in our dry season, such as culvert replacement, we are able to improvement our system, protect our resources and increase productivity in a fiscally responsible manner," Lindsay said.
The health and efficiency of the corrugated metal pipes are rated on a five-point scale. Once a structure has reached a five-point rating it needs to be replaced.
Previously, the district had replaced 52 of the deteriorated or failing corrugated metal pipe culverts utilizing contractors - the cost of which was approximately $75,000 per culvert.
By completing the replacement projects in-house, the district is now able to replace the deteriorating metal pipe with a concrete alternative for a cost of approximately $25,000 per culvert. The cost includes fully-burdened staff time, machine hours, fuel and materials.
According to Lindsay, the district expects the replacement needs to accelerate over time. The last metal culvert in the system was put in place around 1991 and under the best of conditions they typically last between 30-40 years.
This means during the next 20 years the district will need to replace upwards of 250 culverts.