Tampa Bay’s regional water supplier chose cost and quality over convenience Monday in picking where to put a new pipeline to serve fast-growing southern Hillsborough County.
The Tampa Bay Water board of directors Monday unanimously selected a 26-mile corridor for the $419 million pipeline to deliver water from the regional treatment plant near North Falkenburg Road to Lithia and then to Hillsborough County’s planned utility campus and treatment plant in the Balm-Riverview area.
The pipe, which which will measure 66 inches in diameter, will carry as much as 65 million gallons of water each day, much of it earmarked to residents and businesses in southern Hillsborough. It is scheduled to be operating in 2028. The pipeline is separate from ongoing short-term fixes, including a booster station and pumps in Brandon to ease current shortages to areas south of the Alafia River.
The selected route follows near Parson and South King avenues and then Boyette Road and Fishhawk Boulevard to reach Lithia. Tampa Bay Water’s consultants and some residents favored a less direct route that relied on Windhorst, Kingsway, East Lumsden and Yukon roads, plus CXS right of way to circumvent Bloomingdale and reach Lithia from the east.
That eastward route required two additional miles of pipe and a price that was $24 million higher. However, it was expected to cause less public inconvenience since construction would be in a less urbanized area.
Michael Pozanski of Alafia Ridge Loop in Riverview told the board one of the proposed routes appeared to go right through his home, where his wife provides swim lessons to children in their pool.
“Allow us to continue to live in our forever home and where we plan to maintain this (swim lesson) business,” said Pozanski.
Tampa Bay Water said approximately 90 people emailed the utility stating a preference for the easterly route.
“At the end of the day, we have other concerns to consider,” said Hillsborough Commissioner Mariella Smith.
Among them was the issue of water quality. George Cassady, assistant Hillsborough County administrator, said the longer route could cause Hillsborough to flush an unspecified amount of water to ensure contaminants don’t make it to household taps.
For instance, he said Hillsborough flushed 18 million gallons of water in August from its northwest plant that sits at the end of a Tampa Bay Water regional line because of quality concerns.
“What’s most concerning to us right now is the length of the pipeline,” said Cassady. “What we’re most concerned about right now is the end water quality at the end of the line.”
Smith urged the board — elected representatives from Pasco, Pinellas, and Hillsborough counties and the cities of Tampa, St. Petersburg and New Port Richey — to give greater weight to Hillsborough’s position since the pipeline runs through that county and is intended to serve Hillsborough residents.
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Still to be determined is the final path from Lithia to Balm/Riverview. The board deferred picking that route after settling on the 18-mile corridor from Tampa to Lithia.
Hillsborough County is paying for that portion of the pipeline since its utility customers are the beneficiaries. The Southwest Florida Water Management District is expected to contribute as much as $149 million toward the overall project.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect the Tampa Bay Water board did not make a final decision on the planned route between Lithia and Balm/Riverview.