SEWALL'S POINT, Fla. — A couple of weeks of frequent rain in Martin County wreaked havoc on some neighborhoods, including in the town of Sewall's Point.
This week, town leaders broke ground on a new plan to keep streets drier in the future and keep nutrient-rich stormwater from draining into the Indian River Lagoon.
South Sewall's Point Road sees some of the heaviest flooding, often causing road detours.
Eric Haas has lived off the road for a little more than two years. The recent king tides, he said, made matters worse.
"It was the perfect storm for the flooding this time," Haas said.
But across the street from his home, he has a front-row view of a construction project that should keep more water away from his driveway and front yard.
This week, leadership from Sewall's Point, Stuart and Martin County, along with state Sen. Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, state Rep. Toby Overdorf, R-Stuart, and U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., helped break ground on the first of four phases in the South Sewall's Point Resiliency Project.
Crews will be raising the South Sewall's Point Road a foot and a half.
"Get us a little ahead of the curve on king tide encroachment that we have," Sewall's Point Mayor Frank Fender said.
The project also creates a treatment train on the south end of the peninsula.
"The treatment train is the effect of water coming from the top of the peninsula flowing down to the lower ends of the peninsula," Fender said.
Water that would otherwise be sitting on the roadway, potentially draining into the river, will be collected and diverted into retention ponds designed with plants that absorb excess nutrients, filtering and cleaning the water before it can make its way into the Indian River Lagoon.
This is happening while the town is also making progress in converting 900 homes from septic tanks to a municipal sewer system to eliminate the potential for nutrient runoff.
"As of this month, everybody on the north end of the peninsula has the ability to connect and we're providing them heavy incentives to do so next year," Fender said.
He said they will focus next on getting the southern end of Sewall's Point connected to sewer.
"Septic systems tend to leach," Fender said. "If people are putting fertilizer on their lawns and after a while it builds up and there's a rainstorm, if we're not capturing and treating that high-nutrition water before it flows into the lagoon, it's having an impact on algae growth."
Much of the resiliency project is being funded by grants.
According to town records, grants will fund more than $1.2 million of the project, while FEMA will also pay for a significant portion of the overall cost of more than $4 million.