Crews start the cleanup of Billy’s Creek

Action is being taken at a local waterway prone to flooding that has been polluted for years. On Wednesday, crews started to clean up the bottom of Billy’s Creek.

Typically, the sound of construction is bothersome to those around their home. But not now.

In a Brookhill community, the City of Fort Myers is dredging Billy’s Creek to help decrease flooding. It is something that makes Emilia Rosary happy.

Portion of Billy's Creek where cleanup is underway. (Credit: WINK News)
Portion of Billy’s Creek where cleanup is underway. (Credit: WINK News)

“They started off with the drainage system,” Rosary said. “They tore a rotor up. They gave us new piping and stuff and now they’re doing that.”

Rosary’s backyard touches the creek and she said flooding into her house had cost her way too much money.

“My house has gotten flooded about an inch, inch and a half in my house,” Rosary said.

Crews said the goal is to remove 12,000 cubic yards of sediment and get rid of invasive plant species. An added benefit is cleaning up the water polluted with fecal matter. IN 2018, $775,000 in state grant funding for the project was approved by the Florida Legislature, with the city funding the remainder of the $1 million restoration effort.

City officials said this would help the creeks flow, which should cut down on flooding. Ed Rildes has seen the worst of it.

“It rained,” Rildes said. “The water started rising. I watched it come in the road; then I watched it come in the yard and then in my house.”

Both Rosary and Rildes agree that this project will give their community the peace of mind they so desperately seek.

“If it’s not going to flood, of course, I don’t have to worry about flooding,” Rildes said. “Sherance and all that kind of stuff so I feel safe.”

During 2008-09, the city invested nearly $2 million to establish the Billy Creek Preserve Filter Marsh, which reduces the amount of pollutants entering the creek. This initiative was part of the city’s Stormwater Master Plan, and it was launched in cooperation with the South Florida Water Management District and Lee County a decade ago.

The city invested $1.3 million on the construction of Ford Street Preserve in 2014-15. This was used to intercept seasonal runoff and divert it to a constructed wetland treatment system, a press release said. The Ford Street Canal used to discharge to Billy Creek with no treatment.

In a press release, the city monitors bacteria levels in Billy Creek outflows monthly, and performs all testing required by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

The city states it works with all other agencies and counties within the Caloosahatchee Watershed to collectively address pollution threats and sources.

According to a press release, the City of Fort Myers commits more than $100,000 annually to routine testing, maintenance and upkeep of the creek, preserve and filter marshes.

Writer:Emily Ford
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