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St. Pete receives over $28 million in stormwater grants

Mark Parker

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St. Petersburg is receiving $10.68 million for a Salt Creek (pictured) pump station and $900,000 for conveyance project. Photo by Mark Parker.

Four state grants totaling roughly $28.32 million will provide critical funding for environmental resiliency efforts throughout St. Petersburg.

At a March 21 meeting, the city council unanimously approved accepting the cost-reimbursement Florida Department of Environmental Protection grants. Nearly $7.9 million will cover about half of the Shore Acres Resiliency Infrastructure Project in St. Petersburg’s lowest-lying neighborhood.

Two grants, $10.68 million and $900,000, will help fund flood mitigation efforts around Salt Creek and Bartlett Lake. Another $8.87 million will go towards operational efficiency and safety improvements at the Southwest Water Reclamation Facility.

“Just to kind of sum it up for the residents that … I think have been a touch impatient thinking nothing is happening – indeed it is,” said Councilmember Brandi Gabbard. “We’re bringing in $28 million worth of grants. This is now two meetings in a row where we have approved some sort of resiliency measure.”

Claude Tankersley, public works administrator, strongly urged residents to conserve water from the Southwest Water Reclamation Facility as Hurricane Ian approached the area in September 2022. Photo by Mark Parker.

At a Feb. 29 meeting, the last before a three-week break, the city council approved dedicating $3.75 million to replacing outdated tidal backflow prevention valves in the increasingly flood-prone Shore Acres and Riviera Bay neighborhoods. Recent funding announcements followed residents imploring officials to “do something” at a Feb. 21 Resilience Community Listening Session.

Gabbard, who represents Riviera Bay, helped lead the event. At the time, she said former elected officials “under-invested in maintenance and operations.”

Gabbard told attendees that the city “has been playing catch-up to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars” since 2016. Kevin Batdorf, president of the Shore Acres Civic Association, noted that residents have waited nearly six years for the city’s Stormwater Master Plan.

Officials will release the oft-discussed initiative that recommends over $760 million in resiliency projects sometime this year. At the March 21 meeting, Gabbard said city administrators and the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council are part of an “all-hands-on-deck” approach to establishing an “action plan for what we need to do into the future, while still working every single day on mitigation efforts now.”

Brejesh Prayman, capital improvements director, said the grants provide much-needed funding for “early deliverables” in the Stormwater Master Plan. “We took that time to do the analysis of it and come up with a really strong basis of design reports,” he explained.

“Presenting these to grant entities really gave us that foot in the door.”

Prayman said the Reclamation Facility’s operations and maintenance building cannot function during an emergency. Nearly $8.9 million in state funding will help storm-harden the facility and centralize operations.

The $7.9 million Shore Acres grant will improve stormwater drainage around Connecticut Avenue. Councilmember Ed Montanari, who represents the area, said the city has tried to complete the project for over five years.

“That is the lowest part of Shore Acres,” Montanari said. City officials will install new piping, box culverts, a stormwater pump station backflow preventer and elevate “certain parts of the roadway.”

“As we implement this one, we’ll get benefits,” Prayman said. “But as we start to implement other projects supporting it, the benefit continues to increase … and is part of a longer and bigger plan.”

St. Petersburg Fire Rescue personnel enter the city’s Shore Acres neighborhood after Hurricane Idalia brushed the coast in August 2023. Photo: City of St. Petersburg.

About $10.68 million will help fund the $21 million Basin C Resiliency Salt Creek Outfall Pump Station Project. That was the first major project identified in the city’s Stormwater Master Plan.

Claude Tankersley, public works administrator, told the Catalyst in August 2023 that the area is “susceptible to flooding, storm surge and a high possibility of property damage.” He noted that nearby Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street is a “main, critical access route for South St. Pete.”

“There’s a significant number of hospitals and a fire department on MLK,” Tankersley added. “We have a lot of critical infrastructure we need to keep safe.”

An additional $900,000 will support dredging and stormwater drainage efforts as part of the Salt Creek Stormwater Conveyance Project. Councilmember Gina Driscoll said the funding would benefit thousands of residents who live around the waterway, Lake Maggiore and Bartlett Lake.

She also noted the cost associated with building a new pump station. “When we first started talking about it, we had nothing,” Driscoll added. “So, seeing these grants coming and getting the funding to make it happen is really amazing.”

 

 

 

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Lyn Wilkinson

    March 27, 2024at3:28 pm

    I can’t help but wonder how many hours of work by how many city employees was required to achieve these grants?? And how many had “grant writing” in their original job description?

    Instead of using budgeted funds, properly saved and planned for, the long delayed needs of our tax payers are being fulfilled on a patchwork basis if and when we can get the feds and the state to pay for it!

    Meanwhile, for some reason the Mayor and the City Council are prepared to give a proposed 1.4 Billion windfall to a private corporation owned by a billionaire – looking at you Rays/Hines – borrowing money that represents $500 per year of debt for 30 years for every St. Pete household.

    Something has gone seriously awry in the priorities of our current City Administration.

  2. Avatar

    Kevin Cowan

    March 27, 2024at8:46 am

    Hopefully those grants are locked in ,so they cannot be diverted into other projects.The city have kicked this issue down the road for decades.Many individuals with the city leadership have ignored this and created a true crisis situation.And as usual the taxpayers are paying the cost.

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