PORT RICHEY — The city's costly effort of more than 16 years to dredge its canals — a plan that for a long time appeared dead in the water — has new life.
Port Richey hopes to begin with a canal known as Channel 19, which would be the first dredging done of waterways in the city in decades. The plan is for the work to start before Oct. 1, according to City Manager Vince Lupo.
Then the city plans to dredge two more canals: Channel 1, which leads into Millers Bayou from the Gulf a Mexico, and Channel 18, which runs parallel to Port Richey's Waterfront Park.
"It's a dream come true," Lupo told the Tampa Bay Times.
On Aug. 8, the City Council approved paying Roberts Site Development Inc. of Lake Butler $272,875 from Community Redevelopment Agency funds to dredge Channel 19, which was part of an effort to meet a deadline where the city stood to lose costly federal dredging permits it had obtained in past years.
Since 2000, the city has spent more than $1 million for engineering and permitting to dredge its 20 canals leading into the gulf. Plans stalled, however, as funding dried up, and the City Council in 2011 shelved the project, believing residents would reject a special assessment to complete the job.
The dredging plan picked up steam again in recent years after the city was awarded a $670,000 Restore Act grant related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill; the election of Mayor Dale Massad, a longtime supporter of dredging who has called the recent movement forward "historic;" and the rehiring of Lupo, who began planning the dredging project during his first tenure heading the city in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
In June, Lupo came to the council, sitting as the CRA, with a warning that the Army Corps of Engineers permit the city holds would be void after Oct. 1 if the city did not take action to begin dredging. The council voted unanimously to approve spending $90,000 to build what is known as a "dredged materials management area," for which the city had set aside 5 acres along River Gulf Road.
That construction is nearly complete, Lupo said. And once the Florida Department of Environmental Protection signs off on a permit for it, the dredging of Channel 19 will begin. Lupo also announced to the council during an Aug. 22 meeting that the Restore Act funds have come through, a portion of which is allotted for more dredging.
"It's here and it's real, and we are going to do the dredging finally," Lupo said.