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St. Pete Beach addressing drainage issues
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ST. PETE BEACH – It doesn’t rain money so city officials recognize the importance of forming partnerships with other agencies to help fund proposed drainage projects.

Consultants and St. Pete Beach officials are updating the city’s 1993 stormwater drainage plan, identifying $6.5 million in proposed improvements to 25 basins in St. Pete Beach.

They are hoping for a 50-50 match from the Southwest Florida Water Management District to help finance proposed improvements and also funding from the state Department of Transportation.

“They (Southwest Florida) are one of the wealthiest districts in the state. They traditionally have definitely been willing to go into partnerships on projects,” Public Services Director Steven Hallock said at the St. Pete Beach City Commission meeting Jan. 22. “We definitely want to leverage our stormwater money to get Swiftmud money to do twice as much.”

Hallock and Jeff Earhart, senior vice president of Cribb Philbeck Weaver Group of Oviedo, discussed areas of high priority and proposed solutions. Earhart’s consulting firm collected data on inlets and identified problem areas. Citizens’ complaints, historical records and degree of flooding were considered. The firm also defined a level of service.

“What that means is we went through and we said we would like to try to reduce the flooding for the 25-year 24-hour storm as much as possible. For about nine inches in 24 hours, we would like to see the water not come out of the inlets and not be standing in the road,” Earhart said.

One of the top priorities is a basin at Pass-A-Grille Way at Second Avenue, where a pipe outfalls onto the beach.

“Every time we were out except for once it was totally blocked,” Earhart said.

City officials plan to extend the pipe further north and make improvements so that stormwater is not outfalling where the beach is located.

The area near the Sweetbay food store, 77th Avenue and Boca Ciega Drive, has experienced 15 inches of flooding. Earhart said that further north the outfall capacity is fairly good, but the curbing and elevation changes along the roadway cause standing water for a long period of time.

“So as we are looking with other projects the city may be doing here as far as reclaimed water and other upgrades, we would want to look at this particular stretch of road for repaving, adding in stormwater conveyance systems, taking them up to the DOT roadway – the piping systems to alleviate some of the water that’s going there to improve the situation on that particular roadway,” Earhart said.

City officials might want to look at increasing wastewater treatment capacity on Boca Ciega Drive and “completely redo that street,” Hallock said.

Hallock said he is looking to take a “wholistic approach” to increase the cost-benefit ratio of projects by making stormwater, wastewater, reclaimed water and other needed street improvements simultaneously.

“Solve as many problems as we can with each individual project,” Hallock said.

In the coming months, staff will put together a five-year capital improvement plan.

“I’ve never been one to spend this kind of money on a plan and just put it on the shelf and watch it collect dust over the years,” Hallock said. “So we are going to be looking for ways to use this (consultants’) data to implement plans moving forward.”

City commissioners were pleased with the presentation.

Commissioner Jim Parent said addressing needed improvements simultaneously is “absolutely critical and brilliant to do. So that we don’t work at the same place three times in a row. We can take a look at where we can leverage assets and leverage the inconvenience unfortunately that those things cause and do what needs to be done.”

City officials say the city has 175 drainage basins of various sizes. They are focusing on 25 that were studied 20 years ago because they say it is cost-prohibitive to model all 175 in one year. However, they plan to budget money in ensuing years to model some basins every fiscal year until the entire city has been completed.
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