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    County commits to study of creek

    The project will focus on flooding and erosion. Swiftmud and the city of Dunedin also will help pay for it.

    By LEON M. TUCKER

    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published July 2, 2001


    DUNEDIN -- Pinellas County has decided to pitch in on a $230,000 study that will allow it, the city of Dunedin and the Southwest Florida Water Management District, or Swiftmud, to work toward finding answers to flooding and erosion problems along the Curlew Creek.

    County commissioners agreed last week to commit $81,600 to the study.

    Swiftmud will kick in $115,000 and Dunedin will foot the rest of the bill.

    "It really relates to a mutual interest in resolving some of the issues on Curlew Creek," said Gay Lancaster, interim county administrator. "There are a number of interested parties, and this is our effort to participate in the solution."

    The county is already conducting a $170,000 study on the portion of the creek between State Road 580 and Belcher Road. But at the request of the task force, the study will be expanded to review the entire creek and will include water quality and viscosity tests.

    "Too many policy decisions are made based upon gut instinct when the science is not there to support it," said Ronnie Duncan, chairman of the Pinellas-Anclote Basin Board of Swiftmud. "We want to be sure (that) whatever we do, we do it right the first time for the people who live along that creek."

    The study is expected to begin in the fall.

    More than three-quarters of the creek runs through Dunedin, where residents have complained of flooding and erosion.

    Although the consensus among residents is that they want the problems fixed, some are worried that much of the picturesque vegetation will be wiped out.

    "I would like for them to leave it as natural as possible," said Donita Holjes, whose home backs up to a dense area of vegetation along the creek near County Road 1.

    Dunedin Vice Mayor Deborah Kynes says killing trees is not the focus.

    "This is a preservation effort," she said. "That is a beautiful old creek and there are habitats down there.

    "We are doing the study so we can see what needs to be addressed and then we will figure out what needs to be done."

    The problems stem from heavy silt washing downstream and collecting at the mouth of the creek.

    In an effort to track complaints and monitor the problems along the creek, a task force formed with representatives from the County Commission, the Dunedin City Commission, neighbors along the creek and Swiftmud.

    The county and city have made repairs along the basin over time, but the goal of the task force, members say, is to find a solution that stabilizes the entire creek from the Countryside area to the Gulf of Mexico.

    "A creek has no sense of man-made jurisdictions," said Kynes, who is also a vice chairman of the Curlew Creek Task Force. "I think it is a great step for Curlew Creek and a greater step toward our working together on a host of issues where we have to cross boarders."

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