TAMPA — Tampa won't get $1.25 million in federal funds to help pay for dredging about a dozen residential canals in the West Shore area.
That's because Congress cut $140 million out of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency program this spring that was expected to give the city a grant for the long-awaited project.
"In the midst of this austere federal budget situation, the EPA is faced with difficult fiscal decisions," EPA deputy regional administrator A. Stanley Meiburg wrote in a Sept. 30 letter to Mayor Bob Buckhorn.
But, Meiburg added, "the EPA recognizes the importance of this project to your local community," and funding for it might be available through two other EPA programs that are managed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
That would be good for the city, which plans to pay the other half of the project's estimated cost of $2.5 million.
"They're taking the money at a bad time for us," Tampa public works administrator Steve Daignault said Monday. "We're going to have to regroup and see what we can do now."
Another option could be to look elsewhere in the city's storm water budget for the money needed to complete the project, he said.
City officials and South Tampa residents have worked on the West Shore waterways improvement project since at least 2004. The project is in permitting now, and officials had hoped to begin the dredging during the middle to late part of next summer.
The canals to be dredged flow into Old Tampa Bay south of Kennedy Boulevard and north of Gandy Boulevard. The goal is remove the muck and sediment from a channel that's up to 20 feet wide and 3 to 5 feet below the mean low water level.
That, Daignault said, should help storm water draining from the South Tampa peninsula flush into Old Tampa Bay.
The city has hired Duncan Seawall Dock and Boatlift to design and get permits for the project. Once that's done, the company will present the city with a guaranteed maximum price for the dredging. If the city isn't satisfied with the price, it can opt not to proceed, Daignault said.