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Drainage ditch covered to deter trash dumping

(ran East, South, West editions)

Booker Lake behind Edward White Hospital is growing. Several tons of construction equipment are on the scene moving the shoreline about 100 feet east toward Interstate 275.

To clean up an open ditch tributary near 13th Avenue N that had become a dump for shopping carts, bicycles and trash, the city is installing a box culvert that should be easier to maintain. Which still doesn't explain how the lake is growing.

The Southwest Florida Water Management District requires that when land for water seepage is lost _ the culvert project would cover up two blocks of the ditch _ another area must be opened for water to percolate back into the aquifer. Hence the shoreline expansion.

"The problem we're trying to correct is the drainage easement that the city has is (only) about 30 feet wide, and the ditch is wider than that so you can't get in there to maintain that ditch without going on private property." said Tom Gibson, assistant engineering director for the city of St. Petersburg. "It collects a lot of trash and stuff. It's (become) a dumping area."

The new culvert, in addition to cutting down on trash, should eliminate flooding from this tributary on 13th Avenue N.

"The property owners will benefit because we won't have to trespass on their property to get in there to clean stuff out," Gibson said. "And it will hopefully raise property values there and the city will benefit because we'll not have to maintain this open ditch. It's a lot less maintenance. A (closed) culvert is practically maintenance-free."

The new east shore of Booker Lake also will include a littoral shelf to provide a habitat and food source for wildlife in addition to drawing phosphorus, nitrogen and other nutrients that are in storm water.

The city has contracted with the Tampa firm of Kamminga & Roodvoets for the project, which will cost between $500,000 and $600,000 and should be completed by fall.