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Bishop Creek fix could cost up to $1-million

Safety Harbor officials want to explore more erosion-control options for the entire creek before deciding on an approach.

Fixing the erosion problems along Bishop Creek in the Harbor Woods Village neighborhood could cost as much as $1-million, according to a consultant's draft report.

Such an effort would concentrate on 2,000 feet of the 3.8-mile waterway that winds through suburban Safety Harbor. But city officials agreed Tuesday night that while those fixes need to be made, they want to explore solutions for the entire creek.

They directed engineers from Wade Trim to investigate whether a large retention pond could slow the flow of water into Bishop Creek.

"That's something I'd like looked at, more global steps rather than fixing a yard here and a yard there," said Commissioner Keith Zayac, a civil engineer. "The ultimate goal was to look at the creek as a whole and not necessarily specific homeowners."

The study indicates that the problems with Bishop Creek are not the result of an increase in water velocity. Rather, the consultants determined the erosion occurs when heavy rains fill the creek and saturate the side slopes. Then, the bank begins to slump into the creek from the bottom up, causing erosion. It's a common problem in Florida, the consultants said.

"It's happening all over, especially when you're talking about sandy soils like we have here," said consultant Jeffrey Trim. "I really don't think we're going to solve the problem completely, but I think we can limit it."

The consultants presented the city with a variety of cost estimates for repairing problems in Harbor Woods Village, depending on what type of improvements the city wants to make. The costs ranged from $230,000 to do repairs behind 15 homes to $1-million for a neighborhoodwide project in Harbor Woods.

Homeowners in Harbor Woods Village have been lobbying City Hall to address the creek's erosion problems.

Still, the study shows that complaints about the creek have waned since the city spent $600,000 on improvements. But the work was never completed and the improvements have pushed the erosion problem downstream where homeowners are seeing their back yards crumble.

That's exactly what the city wants to avoid this time, commissioners said.

"If we keep building hardened walls we're going to keep pushing the erosion problems downstream until we have the whole thing paved and that doesn't serve any purpose," said Commissioner Neil Brickfield, who lives on the creek.

The 1{-hour work session Tuesday was the first of several meetings that will probably be needed before the city determines a solution.

"It still falls under the category of more investigation," said City Manager Steve Wylie. "I'm not absolutely certain where we're going yet."

One of the biggest issues is who will pay for the repairs. City officials and the consultant will begin approaching agencies such as the Southwest Florida Water Management District and the Department of Environmental Protection to see if there are dollars available to help pay for improvements.