TARPON SPRINGS — After working to get funding for more than a decade, the city may finally be able to move ahead on projects to shore up the eroding banks of two city bayous.
On a 3-0 vote with two commissioners absent at a special meeting Tuesday, the City Commission approved an agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the Small Shoreline Protection Project.
The agreement, which will enable the city to receive federal funding for the project, involves stabilizing about 2,800 feet of the eastern shoreline of Whitcomb Bayou and about 1,700 feet of the eastern and southern shorelines of Kreamer Bayou.
"I'm very excited to be here and there is a reason we asked for the special session," Joseph DiPasqua, the city's Development Services director, told commissioners. "The federal government is asking for action on this, so that they can take action by the end of the day Friday."
DiPasqua said he has worked with Tarpon Springs for almost 21 years and there has been talk about stabilizing the shorelines of Whitcomb and Kreamer bayous the whole time. He said several city employees who worked to get funding for the project have since retired.
In 1999, Lewis "Buddy" Alderman, a local business owner, took then-City Manager Ellen Posivach on a tour of the bayous. Alderman was a staunch advocate for protecting the bayou shores and had written letters and sent photos of shoreline erosion. He died in March 2004 at the age of 84.
"(Alderman) fought for years to get this done," DiPasqua said.
The total cost for the stabilization project is $3 million. The city will be responsible for $994,850 of that amount. Because several of the roads along the bayous have shared jurisdiction with Pinellas County, the county will pick up half of Tarpon's share of the cost.
Tarpon Springs will use its Penny for Pinellas sales tax fund for its half, while the county has the money for its portion budgeted in its Capital Improvement Program. Federal money will complete the project funding.
The city had been notified in June that promised federal funding had been rescinded for this fiscal year, which ends Friday. However, DiPasqua said the Army Corps told him recently there is a high probability the funding would be restored if the city could get a signed agreement to the corps by week's end. That agreement was sent off Wednesday morning.
The low elevation of the bayou shorelines makes them vulnerable to storm damage, tides and currents, and the erosion caused by those natural forces has continually worsened over the past 30 years, a city staff report said. That erosion threatens the integrity of the abutting roadways and causes the destruction of large trees and other vegetation, the report said.
To combat the erosion, a series of riprap revetments will be built along the bayou shores. Riprap is a flexible channel or bank lining that consists of rock, broken concrete or other material with a filter fabric behind it. That allows the water to go through while holding the shoreline in place.
For Whitcomb Bayou, the project will stretch from the boat ramp at Craig Park to Carolina Avenue. At Kreamer Bayou, the work area will be from the 400 to the 600 block of Riverside Drive.
DiPasqua said he's "cautiously optimistic" that work could begin by the middle of next year.
Commissioners were pleased to vote to move the project forward.
"Thank you for your efforts and endurance as we look to do this project," Mayor David Archie told the staff. "I'm happy that it's back on. It was a little disappointing that they rescinded it."
Contact Demorris A. Lee at email@example.com and (727) 445-7174.