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  1. News

New pipes to alleviate Tarpon Woods flooding

EAST LAKE — One summer nearly a decade ago, Barbara Smith found fish scattered across her driveway in the Tarpon Woods subdivision. After a particularly bad storm, a pond near her home on Toniwood Lane had overflowed into the streets.

"It has just been a nightmare for years," Smith, 62, said of stormwater drainage in the neighborhood. "The roads have been flooded so bad and for so long, my son has had to walk to work."

Help may be coming.

On Thursday, Pinellas County officials outlined a plan for an eight-month project to install new drainage pipes that will, if all goes as planned, empty into a lower portion of Brooker Creek.

The $1.75 million project, to break ground April 16, will be funded by the Southwest Florida Water Management District and revenue from the Penny for Pinellas sales tax.

Some residents were pleased, but skeptical, to see the proposed improvements displayed on charts and graphs Thursday at East Lake United Methodist Church. Few complained about traffic problems that could be created by the construction.

"I'll believe it when I see it. Who knows if this will work?" Smith said. "But if it takes me longer to get around for a while, that's fine. This problem needs to be fixed."

Nancy McKibben, a project manager for Pinellas County engineering, bought a home in Tarpon Woods nearly 25 years ago. Because of flooding, her furniture movers were delayed five days. She now lives in Palm Harbor.

"We've been studying the issue for years," she said. "The problem goes back to different regulations that were in place when the neighborhood was built. The developers essentially allowed stormwater to drain into the streets."

Crews will install 5,600 feet of new stormwater pipes, plus maintain traffic and restore the streets afterward. It's a much larger extension of work completed last year.

The new pipes will run below Tarpon Woods Boulevard, Toniwood Lane, Pattie Place and Brian Road N. Residents will be notified 72 hours in advance of construction, which will block portions of through traffic.

The Tarpon Woods drainage project is scheduled to end with a final cleanup in November, McKibben said.

Anyone with questions may contact Iva Dorsey, project supervisor for Pinellas County Construction, at (727) 464-8833.

Danielle Paquette can be reached at dpaquette@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4224. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

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