TARPON SPRINGS — Federal engineers have recommended the city use a familiar property to dump silt set to be dredged out of the Anclote River — the same one used during the last dredge in 1998.
The 3-acre plot off L & R Industrial Boulevard near Wesley Avenue is one of three the city has looked into, but the only one recommended by the Army Corps of Engineers, the agency responsible for maintaining the channel. They say it's best because it is the largest, easiest to get permitting for and was used successfully in the last dredge.
Property owner G.P. Stamas, who bought the parcel in the early 2000s shortly after the last dredge, says he's happy to see his land have potential to help the city.
"The amount of commerce that happens here because of ship traffic is pretty large," he said. "(The dredge) is a great thing for the city, and it's important that we get it done."
Stamas' property would also cost the least, according to project manager Bob Robertson, who says it would ring up to about $720,000 to develop and lease the site for the duration of the project, expected to span about 40 months.
City planners have also considered space at 240 Anclote Road, which would cost about $870,000 total. The third, at the corner of Anclote Road and L & R Industrial Boulevard, would cost about $920,000.
Robertson says he reached out to the Army Corps for a recommendation as a part of the city's "due diligence," but it is ultimately up to the City Commission to decide which site to go with.
Commissioners were notified of the three options this week. Commissioner David Banther said he is grateful to the city staff and the Army Corps for the speed of the project thus far.
"This whole project was just conceptual last summer ... so in the speed of government, this has gone light years," he said. "I look forward to hearing more about the Army Corps recommendation."
Commissioners will hear a staff presentation on all three properties next month, and a majority vote for one will kick start engineering work needed to prep for the second half of the project, the actual dredging.
Silt has steadily built up in the channel since the last dredging, causing lower water levels that prevent larger boats from coming into port. Many captains have started avoiding the city altogether for fear of getting stuck in the channel — now as shallow as 3 feet at low tide — hurting tourism and commercial businesses along the working waterfront.
Robertson said city planners focused on finding a space big enough to hold about 82,000 cubic yards of silt, the estimated amount surveys have shown needs to be dredged since the Army Corps changed the scope of the project.
Engineers have decided, rather than dredge the channel as is, to move the project southeast and away from shallower parts of the river near Anclote Key, to maximize the success of the dredging.
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"The hope is that it will lessen the problems there," Robertson said, adding that the better the dredge goes, the more time the city will have before another one is needed.
Once a site is approved, the bulk of the work will start, including more surveys of the river, permitting, development of the dump site and testing of the silt to see if it can be used for beach renourishment projects.
The city is also responsible for finding money for the project. So far, the county has verbally committed to contribute $300,000, which will go toward paying the Army Corps for permitting and engineering services. City planners are also trying for state funds, which Robertson says could be as much as $1 million.
"We have had some really strong and high-level support so far," Robertson said, citing project backing by both federal and state representatives. "That's what's keeping this project moving."
Contact Megan Reeves at email@example.com or (727) 445-4153. Follow @mreeves_tbt.