Safety Harbor taps $1.2M for creek

Published May 23, 2007

SAFETY HARBOR - The City Commission has agreed to spend about $1.2-million to stop Bishop Creek from consuming any more property in the Rainbow Farms South subdivision.

The project to tame 500 feet of embankment will start sometime in June.

It follows the near completion of a similar repair downstream in the Harbor Woods subdivision to prevent erosion and repair slopes.

The contract was awarded to Oklawaha Farms, which will do the work.

The problem affects seven homeowners.

One of them is Frank Mulligan.

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Nearly 30 years ago when Mulligan built his house in Rainbow Farms South, Bishop Creek was a peaceful stream that began in Clearwater, flowed under McMullen-Booth Road and wandered eventually to Tampa Bay.

Carrying mostly storm runoff water, it cut only a few feet into the earth.

Mulligan, 77, a retired sales manager for Frito-Lay, and some of his neighbors used its water to sprinkle their lawns.

But as more and more buildings came to North Pinellas, more and more concrete covered the land.

The water had fewer places to go.

But nature always finds a way.

During the rainy season, water that used to seep into the ground elsewhere rushed into Bishop Creek instead. The swollen creek started cutting deeper into the earth, threatening to take huge oak trees with it.

Now the channel's bed is about 7 feet deep, a little canyon with just a little trickle of water running through it.

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Mulligan is happy it is being strengthened, although he said he thinks "it's overkill from the start."

But Mayor Andy Steingold countered that "the city is responsible for maintaining stormwater drainage."

"I don't agree with the idea that we're fixing it just for just a few homeowners, " he said. "If it's not repaired, it could cost more money down the road."

The timing of the project also irritates Mulligan.

"What a stupid time to do it, with hurricane season" closing in, he said.

But Dan Glaser, an engineer with McKim & Creed, the engineering firm hired by the city, said "it wasn't a choice to do it during the rainy season."

"The desire was to get the project built as soon as possible, he said, adding that a skilled contractor can work under most weather conditions.

For three years, the company presented several options to the city about methods for repairing the slopes and stopping erosion.

McKim & Creed settled on replacing the creek's eroding banks with a vertical steel sheet pile wall - also known as a sea wall - with a concrete cap.

The bottom of the channel between the sheet pile walls is going to have cabled concrete mats where native flora and fauna will be planted.

About 20 trees now living precariously on the edge of the waterway will be removed. The original design called for more than 40 to be taken.

"It (the new plan) minimized the cutting of trees, " Glaser said.

A second phase to fix another portion of the creek has not been scheduled.

Eileen Schulte can be reached at (727) 445-4153 or schulte@sptimes.com.