PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — It's another step forward in the recovery process. Charlotte County is starting to clean up Hurricane Ian debris in all the waterways including canals, lakes, and ditches.
"Aluminum from the roof. Trees limbs — Anything you can think that would blow in a storm ended up in this water," said Deborah Walsh, who lives along the Hayward canal in Port Charlotte.
Zulu Discovery, a disaster relief clean-up contractor hired by the county, started cleaning the water behind Walsh's home on Tuesday morning.
"I cried when I found out they were coming," Walsh said.
Jean Townsend also lives nearby and said she couldn't be happier to see workers in her neighborhood.
"For us, it’s a blessing really cleaning it up," she said. "The water is the main lifestyle for a lot of the people here and they need it and we need this stuff out of the canal. I think that’s more a priority right now."
One of several priorities for Charlotte County as they work to clean the water and land. As of Tuesday, spokesperson Brian Gleason said contractors have cleaned up one million cubic yards of debris.
Public Works previously told Fox 4 that contractors hope to have a substantial amount of debris picked up in Charlotte County by March. With so much work to be done on the land, we asked why they are starting on the water now.
"The land and the waterway debris are separate contracts, so whatever effort we put in for the waterways doesn’t impact what we’re doing on land," Gleason said.
It's an impact Walsh says she's happy to see not only for her community but the nature surrounding it.
"I think the water is most important because, with all this debris, wildlife — how can the sea grass grow and the manatees come in," she explained.
Charlotte County said it doesn't have a timeline yet as far as when the waterways will be completely clean. That's because they don't know how much debris is in the water quite yet and what type of debris they're going to find.
Gleason said they're working on saltwater canals first so boaters can safely get back on the water.
"A lot more to do. It's a work in progress," Townsend said. "It was emotional, but I am very thankful Zulu Discovery is here cleaning up the canal for us."
Charlotte County will launch a water clean-up dashboard, similar to its existing one, to show the community what waterways have been cleaned so far.
Contractors will not clean the Charlotte Harbor or Peace River because Gleason says that is regulated either by the state or federal government.