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    Safety Harbor to fortify banks of Bishop Creek

    An earlier fix to ease erosion has not solved the problem, so commissioners will budget funds for a shoring-up project.

    By LEON M. TUCKER, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published February 5, 2003


    SAFETY HARBOR -- As it turns out, the city's troubles with Bishop Creek are not yet water under the bridge.

    Nearly nine months after the city completed a $1.3-million erosion prevention project, a handful of residents upstream continue to complain about chunks of their property falling into the creek during heavy rains.

    "After we heard from the residents there, we felt there was reason to see what we can do to resolve that," said City Manager Wayne Logan.

    On Monday night, commissioners directed Logan and his staff to begin designing a plan to address concerns along the part of the creek near the Rainbow Farms subdivision, a wooded neighborhood north of Enterprise Road and east of McMullen-Booth Road.

    Currently, no money is set aside for the job. But after the design is finished, city leaders want to make money available in the next budget, scheduled for approval in October.

    The cost: as much as $120,000.

    "I've really got to compliment the responsible officials we have because they realize you can't draw a line in the sand and say this is where we're going to put the Band-Aid," said Joe Rezendes who lives at 2045 Rainbow Farms Drive. Frequently, Rezendes has addressed city commissioners, urging more work to curb ongoing erosion.

    "Not to take action when (flooding and erosion) are pretty apparent would really make you scratch your head," he added, saying the commission's action was "responsible."

    Downstream, it took about two years of complaints from residents along the section of the creek in the Harbor Woods subdivision before the city came up with a solution.

    Erosion there got so bad that one homeowner's swimming pool came within about 3 feet of falling 13 feet into the creek bed below.

    To remedy the problem the city spent $350,000 to buy 5 acres in 2001 from the neighboring Florida Sheriff's Youth Ranch. The city then dug out a 3-acre lake to collect and hold stormwater.

    On the south side of the lake, where the creek runs, a diversion dam was installed. The concrete box-like structure is designed to hold up heavy creek flow and push it through a 24-inch hole into the creek.

    Whatever water backs up and rises more than 3 feet inside the box is diverted into the the nearby lake.

    The water is kept in the lake until it reaches about 38 feet above sea level -- or a half-million gallons -- then it is distributed back into the creek.

    This slowed the flow of water and controlled erosion.

    But residents such as Bob Taylor -- Rezendes' next-door neighbor -- say the dam backs up water that eats away at some properties.

    "We went back to the city and said 'we understand you did what you did, but the structure they built had an adverse effect on us,' " said Taylor, who lives at 2047 Rainbow Farms Drive. "We're happy the city is at least trying to address the situation and move to the next step."

    City officials, however, are quick to say this next phase of work is supplemental to the original improvement project.

    "We're going to have to harden the creek bank and shore it up from any continued erosion," said City Engineer Lennie Naeyaert. "The method in which we will do that -- we don't know yet.

    "We'll probably put up some sort of retaining wall with vegetation along the banks," he added.

    -- Leon M. Tucker can be reached at (727) 445-4167 or tucker@sptimes.com .

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