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Legislator calls for an update on Clam Bayou

Rep. Kriseman wants to hear about progress and plans for the preserve.

By NICK JOHNSON, Times Staff Writer
Published October 14, 2007


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Rep. Rick Kriseman is calling for a meeting of the minds this week to find out what's been going on in the Clam Bayou Nature Preserve.

Mayor Rick Baker of St. Petersburg and Mayor Michael Yakes of Gulfport - the two cities in which the preserve lies - have been invited to attend along with several organizations and individuals who have been involved with efforts in the bayou.

"When you hear from different groups, you get a little different perspective, so that's why I think it's important to get everyone together," Kriseman said. "I want to make sure that we're all moving in the same direction."

For decades Clam Bayou has been plagued with trash and debris that flow into its waterways from a series of stormwater pipes.

The pipes are connected to an old portion of St. Petersburg's watershed area that does not have modern retention systems thattrap floating debris.

The result is a nature preserve that is flooded with a virtual grocery list of garbage every time there's a downpour in the area.

After initial finger-pointing between St. Petersburg and Gulfport as to who was at fault, the cities have come together for at least one cleanup.

The cleanup was organized by the Green Armada, a nonprofit organization that has worked closely with St. Petersburg to clean up the area's waterways.

Both cities sponsored the cleanup: Gulfport provided transport for the hundreds of volunteers who showed up, and St. Petersburg provided the equipment and crew to remove the collected debris.

"I give both cities a lot of credit," Kriseman said. "I think that they are working better today than they were 10 years ago, because this isn't a problem that developed overnight."

Here is a list of some of the ongoing, and upcoming, cleanup and restoration projects in Clam Bayou Nature Preserve.

- The Southwest Florida Water Management District has been working with St. Petersburg on a multimillion-dollar habitat restoration and stormwater project in the preserve.

The project will divert the stormwater that drains into the bayou into a series of retention ponds to collect trash and filter the water. It will also include extensive physical habitat restoration and removal of nonnative species in the preserve.

Swiftmud hopes to have the permits by the end of the year and estimates that the first phase may be complete by 2009.

- Volunteer cleanups organized by nature guide Kurt Zuelsdorf and the nonprofit group Nature Matters are being held regularly. They allow groups to access the bayou by kayak, picking up garbage that floats into the narrow channels throughout the mangroves.

- St. Petersburg has been maintaining a number of booms that have been placed in front of the stormwater pipes to catch debris. City staffers collect the garbage and dispose of it.

- Gulfport hosts several waterfront cleanups a year in its part of the preserve. The next one is scheduled for Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The Clam Bayou meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday at Rep. Kriseman's St. Petersburg office.

Nick Johnson can be reached at nickjohnson@sptimes.com or 893-8361.

[Last modified October 13, 2007, 22:19:59]


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