Hurricane Irene in 1999 and the no-name storm of 2000 produced severe flooding in West Miami-Dade, trapping thousands of residents in their homes and causing widespread damage. The inundations underscored the need for a major upgrade of the drainage systems in that part of the county, which is lower in elevation than other areas and which relies on the Tamiami Canal to carry away storm water. When the canal becomes overloaded during heavy rains, Sweetwater becomes floodwater. This past January the first of two 450-acre retention basins was inaugurated with much pomp and backslapping among the local, state, and federal bureaucrats who will spend some $50 million on the project. Located northeast of the intersection of Krome Avenue and Tamiami Trail, the new basin consists of flat forest land now surrounded by a manmade embankment, sort of a vast play pool. In a flood emergency, huge pumps will fill the basin with storm water up to four feet deep. It may not be glamorous, and most people will never even see it, but it's great news to nearly half a million county residents who are sick and tired of resorting to canoes every time it rains.