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Neighborhood news

Canal dredging could require residents to pay up to half

By Andrew Meacham
Published March 16, 2007


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For years, boaters have complained about silt-filled canals that prevent them from getting out on the water.

The solution, they said, was to deepen the canals. But how much would dredging cost and who would pay for it?

The answer: $15.2-million, with up to half the cost being paid by residents, county officials said this week.

The county's Public Works Department is concluding a yearlong study on silt and other sediments that accumulate in canals and keep many boats grounded except at high tide.

At a county forum Monday at Sickles High School in Tampa, waterfront residents learned that they could foot 50 percent of the bill if all eight affected areas decide to dredge.

Tax phobia

Some tax-weary residents aren't happy with the county's idea to levy special taxes to make canals more navigable.

"I don't think we should be taxed more to take care of what should be their problem," Apollo Beach boater Jerry Chevillot said. He has had to wait until high tide - around 4 p.m. or midnight in recent months - before he feels safe leaving his dock in a 32-foot boat.

His twin inboard engines reach 33 inches into the water - too deep for most tides.

The county plan calls for dredging canals in northern and southern Apollo Beach, the Alafia area and Ruskin, along with northern Hillsborough canals in Bayport, Baycrest, Dana Shores and Essex Downs. Dredging would extend to 5 feet below the mean low water line, an average depth calculated over 19 years.

Matching funds

If the County Commission approves the plan, waterfront residents in each area would vote whether to accept a special tax to pay for dredging. The county would match whatever sum those taxes raise, up to a total of $750,000 a year.

If nothing else, project engineer Martin Montalvo said, completing an underwater survey will help future efforts to study Hillsborough's canal depths.

Boat captain Jim Rood, who lives in Apollo Beach and attended the forum, said he doesn't expect canal improvements any time soon.

Rood said he has seen boats run aground when steering by channel markers meant to guide operators to safe depths. The markers were established before stormwater runoff and storms pushed shorelines outward and left silt deposits along canal bottoms.

"You hear discussions among homeowners in all sincerity asking, "How can we contribute to dredging being done?" said Rood, 65. "And even with that, nothing has been done."

An 'unfair burden'?

Apollo Beach attorney and boater Mike Peterson said he wants to make sure that residents don't end up paying for water being carried by Delaney Creek or Wolf Branch Creek from inland locations.

"All that stuff drains from somewhere else before it comes here," Peterson said. "If they continue to underestimate how much of the canal buildup is related to drainage, it could place an unfair burden on the residents."

If residents and the county can reach an agreement, it would make real estate broker Henry Brosnaham's job a little easier. Dredging would improve property values in Apollo Beach, where waterfront homes already sell for $450,000, about $200,000 more than a landlocked house across the street.

"Anything they can do to improve the access to open water is a big plus for everyone," Brosnaham said.

The county will present its findings and recommendations to county commissioners April 18.

Andrew Meacham can be reached at 661-2431 or ameacham@sptimes.com.

[Last modified March 15, 2007, 07:33:52]


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