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St. Pete embarks on $1.6 million seawall project

Mark Parker



A long-awaited initiative to replace St. Petersburg's structurally deficient seawalls will start along the 31st Avenue NE bridge in Snell Isle. Photo: Google.

A long-awaited initiative to replace St. Petersburg’s aging and eroding seawalls will soon commence as city council members unanimously approved a $1.6 million construction proposal May 16.

Edmonton, Canada-based PCL Construction will rebuild structurally deficient sea walls in three flood-prone areas around the peninsula. Those include the 31st Avenue Northeast bridge on Snell Isle, the 79th Street South bridge over Boca Ciega Bay and a span along 87th Avenue North in Riviera Bay.

“One of the seawalls that is being done is a project I’ve been working on for years,” said Councilmember Ed Montanari, who represents Snell Isle. “I know there’s a couple of other seawalls in other council members’ districts who I’m sure are very happy to see this coming forward.”

St. Petersburg officials established the Citywide Seawall Inspection, Renovation and Replacement project in fiscal year 2021. Brejesh Prayman, director of engineering and capital improvements, called the three sites priority locations.

From left: Councilmember Brandi Gabbard, Mayor Ken Welch and Councilmember Ed Montanari hear residents’ concerns at a Feb. 13 Resilience Community Listening Session. Photo by Mark Parker.

The bridge-adjacent seawalls are more susceptible to deterioration caused by storm surges. Prayman also noted that the infill section in Riviera Bay is lower than the surrounding seawalls.

“What we noticed during a storm event was that the water was coming up through that section onto the roadway, even though the residents’ seawalls were higher,” he said. “Again, taking that thought and approach of assessing where are risks are having the highest priority.”

Prayman expects PCL to receive construction materials by August. The contractor will replace the seawall on Boca Ciega Bay before moving on to Snell Isle and finishing in Riviera Bay.

Each project will take about 45 days to complete, and Prayman said officials will work to minimize traffic impacts. Councilmember Brandi Gabbard called his approach to addressing vulnerable infrastructure “brilliant.”

“We’re talking a lot about doing this Resiliency Action Plan,” Gabbard added. “I don’t want it to be lost on the residents that action is happening now.”

She noted that Riviera Bay residents have requested the seawall replacement “for a very long time.” Prayman said construction in that area should begin in January 2024.

He said administrators will address deficient seawalls throughout the city following the priority projects. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recently approved a vulnerability study.

Prayman said compiling seawall elevation data is a critical component. City officials will then create a citywide storm surge model highlighting the most susceptible areas.

“We’ll be coupling that data with the over 12,000 basins of stormwater model data that we have,” Prayman explained. “Walls that may not look good but are structurally sound may not be the highest risk of vulnerability.”

Brejesh Prayman, St. Petersburg’s engineering and capital improvements director, noted this seawall in Riviera Bay is lower than the adjacent barriers.

He noted that city officials have completed resident surveys and will soon issue public meeting notifications. However, Prayman said they will not complete the study until late 2025 as FEMA must review the work.

He said planning for priority projects helps the city receive FEMA grants while administrators complete their long-awaited Stormwater Master Plan. “If we know the high-risk locations … we can start putting our dominoes in line, essentially,” Prayman added.

The Tampa Bay Rays recently released new Historic Gas Plant District redevelopment renderings that prominently highlighted a revitalized Booker Creek. Councilmember Gina Driscoll would like to see Historic Rosier Park, about a mile south, receive some attention.

She said the neighborhood’s seawalls along Booker Creek are beginning to topple and “pulling sidewalks with it.” The waterway’s pedestrian bridge is now “unusable.”

“It looks really bad,” Driscoll said. “I know that this one is also in a plan … I believe this is one that can start early.”

Prayman said administrators included the project in the latest Penny for Pinellas tax funding round. He also noted its costliness but said they could conduct an updated condition assessment while awaiting additional resources.

PCL must purchase surety bonds, which help ensure a contractor meets project requirements. The $1.6 million contract excludes costs associated with hazardous material testing and remediation, unexpected site conditions, “unsuitable material” removal and office space.

“I think this is one of the first things I started working on when I came on a few years ago,” said Councilmember Copley Gerdes. “I know it’s been a long road.”




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    May 21, 2024at10:12 am

    $1.6 Million will fix how many hundreds of feet of seawall? To raise seawalls to accomodate rising water will cost the city Billions to fix.

  2. Avatar

    David B.

    May 20, 2024at12:39 pm

    They need to fix the crunlmbling seawall around the North Yacht Basin.

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