Five years from now, the regional water utility plans to send as much as 65 million gallons of additional drinking water each day to the fast-growing region of south Hillsborough County.
On Monday, the Tampa Bay Water board of directors picked the planned route for the southern portion of what will be a 26-mile, $417 million pipeline to deliver that water.
When completed in 2028, it will connect Tampa Bay Water’s regional treatment plant in Brandon to the county’s plant in Lithia and then on to a new water treatment plant in southern Hillsborough.
The beneficiaries will be residents and businesses in southern Hillsborough where the county has committed to providing an additional 6 million gallons a day of drinking water to 23,000 new homes and apartments by 2027. Meanwhile, future population estimates show the number of homes in Wimauma doubling and the number in the Balm area nearly tripling by 2045, the utility said.
The utility board previously settled on the initial 18-mile northern route in September, but delayed voting on the southern corridor after Hillsborough County officials asked for additional time to review the proposed route. On Monday, the board unanimously approved the southern route with no changes.
That segment will connect to the northern pipeline near Fish Hawk Boulevard, just west of Fish Hawk Creek. The route then heads south to Boyette Road, intersects Balm Boyette Road and continues south to the intersection of Balm and Balm Riverview roads, where it will link to a Hillsborough County pipe.
The only public comment came by email from Clifford Reiss of Riverview, who said he supported the planned route, but said construction along McMullen Road could force impractical detours to Balm Riverview Road that would lead to “very extreme” traffic delays.
The county is paying for the southern segment, but Tampa Bay Water will own and operate it. That arrangement qualifies the project for funding from the Southwest Florida Water Management District.
The exact location of where the 72-inch pipe will go within the corridor route won’t be determined until the project’s design is completed later this year.
The pipeline construction also coincides with a planned expansion of the Brandon plant to skim and treat additional water from the Hillsborough and Alafia rivers and the Tampa Bypass Canal.
In December, the river water accounted for nearly 43% of the 187 million gallons of water the utility delivered daily to the three-county region and the cities of New Port Richey, St. Petersburg and Tampa.
Customer demand in southern Hillsborough County is about 52.5 million gallons of water daily, the utility said.
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Pinellas Commissioner David Eggers, Hillsborough Commissioner Harry Cohen and Pasco Commissioner Ron Oakley all complimented the utility staff and the member governments for working in unison to benefit south Hillsborough residents.
“Particularly because in some other areas, regional cooperation has not yielded as much success as it has here,” said Cohen. “It’s nice to be able to point out something that’s so important where we’re all able to work together.”