Who’s responsible for the swales and culverts in Sebastian?

Swale and Culvert
Swale and Culvert

Editorial/Opinion – Almost two decades ago, the City Council spoke about the maintenance for homeowners to keep up with the culverts and swales. I remember it very well, and now it’s becoming a bigger problem due to growth. The same topic was heard again during last Wednesday’s City Council meeting when Councilman Chris Nunn emphasized the same problem we still have today, some 20 years later.

“The first level of storm drainage problems revolve around the culverts on many, many driveways in this city,” Nunn said during the meeting.

Nunn said he spoke with some of the homeowners with the problem, and they said to him, “just fine me a $100 a day. When I die, and they sell the house, you can get the money from it.”

A culvert affects more than one person and begins to flood the streets and community. So saying “just fine me” isn’t a resolution, Nunn said. And many residents agree with Nunn on this topic because they see it on their streets. We have the city ordinance, and we all knew what the rules were when we moved into Sebastian.

Long ago, property owners were more apt to fix the problem, even if they had to hire someone to clear it. But over the past ten years, as our population soared, many homeowners are violating the ordinance and argue that it’s somehow the city’s responsibility. Some even say it’s their own HOA’s responsibility. 

When I owned property in Collier Creek Estates, it was up to me to keep it clear. Our HOA made sure we knew how important it was to clear the swales. So every two years, I would go out with a small shovel and clear a path for the water to get through. That also included the culvert under my driveaway. It didn’t take me long, and it kept the water off my street.

Many people like to complain about the drainage problems in Sebastian, but they take no responsibility for their property, which does contribute to localized flooding. Our drainage system can move all water within a day, clearing the streets and neighborhoods, which is reasonable. 

There is also an issue with residents who are elderly and do not have the money to hire someone to do the work. But it is still their responsibility. 

Culvert and Swale Enforcement Action

Nunn proposes a culvert and swale enforcement action to go around and talk with people, including fines. If they don’t clean it, the city hires a third-party contractor to do it. Then, the monies are charged back to the homeowner. 

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Keeping the swales clean is very important, especially when hurricane season approaches. If a storm hits, there will be flooding and drainage issues in neighborhoods where homeowners refuse to clean their swales. It can also happen during the upcoming rainy season. 

“The people who complain most about drainage are people who are seeing the water build in their swales. And usually, the water is building in a swale because of somebody’s culvert down the road, Nunn said.

Councilman Ed Dodd was skeptical because he didn’t see how the city could manage it by driving the roads and issuing fines. He thinks the city will end up with 6,000 code enforcement actions that could overwhelm the staff. 

Mayor Jim Hill said there are already people getting fines or being asked to clean the swales on their property by code enforcement officials.

“The most important thing about our type of drain system is to have an understanding of how it’s supposed to work. Our type of drain system is constructed such that those swales do hold water,” Hill said.

If it gets to the point where the City of Sebastian has to maintain swales and culverts to keep the drainage working, it will mean a budget increase. No one from the city is saying that taxes will increase, but the maintenance has to get done.

The City Council has asked the staff to give comments about the issue. There will be another discussion about the swales and culverts.

Sebastian Daily will continue to update you.

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About Andy Hodges 2737 Articles
Andy Hodges was born in Annapolis, Maryland, and raised in Jupiter, Florida. He has been a radio and TV personality since the mid-1980s. He has worked for WFLX-TV (Fox 29), WIRK, WLIZ, WIXI, WKSY, WRMF, and others. In 1994, Andy took a break from broadcasting and was a software and systems engineer for various companies. In 2002, he permanently moved back to Sebastian, where Andy's family has lived for over 45 years. He returned to the broadcasting sector in 2005. Andy joined Sebastian Daily as our editor-in-chief in 2016.