Tuesday, October 23, 2018
Breaking News

Work funded by new drainage fee providing relief from flooding, Buckhorn says

TAMPA — As Hurricane Michael roared far offshore past the Tampa Bay area, Mayor Bob Buckhorn monitored the storm with considerably less anxiety than he had during previous downpours.

After millions of dollars were spent, the city’s massive stormwater fix appears to be paying dividends, Buckhorn said.

“We’ve been digging and spending for two years now,” Buckhorn said. “I know we’ve dug a lot of swales and cleaned a lot of ditches and roto-rootered a lot of big pipes.”

The work isn’t done yet, he said, but he’s optimistic.

“You get a storm with a high tide, it’s going to happen. But the daily stuff that is such an inconvenience is largely mitigated,” Buckhorn said Wednesday morning as the city experienced flooding on Bayshore Boulevard and parts of Davis Islands with Michael’s passage west of the Tampa Bay area.

The hurricane flooding was significant but far less damaging than the weeks of rain that plagued the city in 2015. Later that year, the City Council raised a fee paid by property owners so the city could clean out more ditches and ponds, sweep streets and unplug storm drain outfalls. For the owner of a medium-sized house, the fee rose from $36 to $82.

In 2016, the council approved a $251 million drainage improvement program over opposition from some property owners. The fee will ramp up to $89.55 for the owner of a medium-sized home by 2022 and will remain in place until 2046.

Many of the larger projects are still underway, but the results have been noticeable, said Jean Duncan, the city’s stormwater and transportation director.

“I think it’s made a dramatic impact on the system that's in place and our ability to build more components into the system,” Duncan said.

All the outfalls along scenic Bayshore Boulevard have been cleaned out, in many cases by divers using drills and crowbars to knock away barnacles as hard as concrete. That helped reduce South Tampa’s flooding problem immensely, she said.

Critics of the fee hike, notably City Council Chairman Frank Reddick, noted at the time that the bulk of the projects benefited more affluent areas while leaving poorer neighborhoods in East Tampa and North Tampa largely untouched.

Duncan pointed to a program that converts flooded properties into retention ponds in North Tampa. She conceded East Tampa didn’t have any major stormwater projects, but said smaller projects will offer some relief to East Tampa neighborhoods.

Council member Harry Cohen, who is running for mayor and represents South Tampa, said it’s clear that the work done so far has had an impact. Large drainage projects in Seminole Heights, Cypress Street and near MacDill Air Force Base should also create noticeable reductions in flooding, he said.

Three years ago, Cohen was driving on South Howard and West Swann Avenues after three weeks of heavy rain had drenched Tampa Bay. He rolled down his window to take a picture and was met with a “wall of water” as a passing vehicle splashed water into his car.

“We’ve been extremely successful,” Cohen said, “in making a big difference in afternoon storms."

Contact Charlie Frago at cfrago@tampabay.com or (727)893-8459. Follow@CharlieFrago.

Comments
Romano: Cops should get body cameras before cell phones get them

Romano: Cops should get body cameras before cell phones get them

It’s happened again. Another snippet of video. Another Florida cop being questioned.This time, it’s in Coral Springs, and the cop is punching the midsection of a 14-year-old girl who is pinned on the ground with two cops above her, and her hands unde...
Updated: 4 hours ago
World Series: Dodgers manager Dave Roberts remains a Red Sox hero

World Series: Dodgers manager Dave Roberts remains a Red Sox hero

BOSTON — The Dodgers already had plenty to yell about, and to toast, when they gathered in the bar of Milwaukee's Pfister Hotel late Saturday to continue the celebration of their National League championship.But as a quick clip from the ALCS 14...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Buccaneers AfterMath: Dirk Koetter chooses his inconsistent kicker over his inconsistent quarterback

Buccaneers AfterMath: Dirk Koetter chooses his inconsistent kicker over his inconsistent quarterback

TAMPA — By beating the Browns 26-23 Sunday, the Buccaneers snapped a three-game losing streak and Tampa Bay breathed a collective sigh of relief.It wasn’t pretty, a misadventure full of interceptions, fumbles, penalties and missed kicks. ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
For killing his mother and niece, a half-century in prison for Pasco man

For killing his mother and niece, a half-century in prison for Pasco man

NEW PORT RICHEY — Jason Rios will spend up to half a century in prison for the 2015 murders of his mother and niece and the attempted murder of another niece.Rios, 28, could be eligible to be released in 39 years. By then, he will be 67 — and still s...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Bloomingdale video voyeur teacher: 353 new charges, $2 million bail

Bloomingdale video voyeur teacher: 353 new charges, $2 million bail

Investigators say they have uncovered an extensive amount of videos and images of under-age students secretly filmed while undressing by a Bloomingdale High School teacher who was arrested last month on a video voyeurism charge.Mark Ackett, 50, who r...
Updated: 7 hours ago
‘There are no shelters in Mexico Beach’: Among last words from Hurricane Michael victim

‘There are no shelters in Mexico Beach’: Among last words from Hurricane Michael victim

In the final hours before Hurricane Michael crumbled her Mexico Beach home around her, Agnes Vicari was on the phone with her niece with a promise."I made a mistake. I won't make a mistake again," she told Joanne Garone Behnke the morning the storm h...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Tampa man charged with manslaughter for failing to call 911 after Plant High student’s fatal overdose

Tampa man charged with manslaughter for failing to call 911 after Plant High student’s fatal overdose

TAMPAFailures to call 911 leads to chargesA 19-year-old Tampa man is under arrest for his role in the death of a Plant High School senior who overdosed on heroin last year just weeks before graduation. Titan Goodson, of Harbour Island, was still in t...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Joe Biden in Tampa says it’s not a time to joke: ‘We’re in the battle for the soul of America’

Joe Biden in Tampa says it’s not a time to joke: ‘We’re in the battle for the soul of America’

TAMPA — As vice president, Joe Biden leaned in to the goofy "Uncle Joe" caricature of memes and satirical news stories. He wore aviators for the cameras while eating ice cream, and pointed and grinned behind President Barack Obama during nation...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Scenes from the Democratic rally in Tampa, featuring Joe Biden (w/video)

Scenes from the Democratic rally in Tampa, featuring Joe Biden (w/video)

"I think there's something different about this election," Biden told the crowd. "I really mean this. Let me get to the point. This election is bigger than politics. For real. This goes well beyond. You will never have voted in an election that's mor...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Lakeland commissioner resigns after murder charge

Lakeland commissioner resigns after murder charge

LAKELAND — The Lakeland city commissioner who was charged last week with second-degree murder in the death of a would-be shoplifter has resigned from his elected position.A letter of resignation dated Oct. 20, the same day Michael Dunn was arrested, ...
Updated: 9 hours ago