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Date of Issue: June 16, 2005

Don't put drainage swale in my backyard, residents say

There's an old political axiom that nobody ever opposes a project until it affects them directly. It's called the "not-in-my-backyard" syndrome.

At the June 7 Anna Maria town hall meeting to discuss the upcoming Gladiolus-North Shore water quality-drainage improvement project, residents along the east end of the project voiced their disapproval, while those at the western end applauded the effort.

The project has been approved by the Southwest Florida Water Management District for a matching grant of up to $135,000, said Tom Wilcox of Baskerville-Donovan Inc., the city's engineering firm. If the project reaches $270,000 in cost, Swiftmud will reimburse the city for half of the expenditure.

Wilcox explained that the swale will be built along the 10-foot-wide alleyway that runs between Gladiolus Street and Bay Boulevard, with stormwater runoff heading into the three finger canals along the route.

The project is designed to treat stormwater runoff to improve the quality of water draining into Tampa Bay, recharge the Florida aquifer by percolating water, and provide some drainage relief.

But we don't have a flooding problem at the east end of Bay Boulevard, said Dr. John Cella.

"You are going to take flooding down to my house," Cella said, claiming the project is simply moving the problem from one location to another.

Wilcox cautioned residents, however, not to think of the project as simply drainage, but as a system that will allow water to percolate into the ground and move the remainder into the canals.

Other Bay Boulevard residents also claimed they see no reason for the city to spend taxpayer dollars by moving a flood area to their neighborhood.

Wilcox disagreed, saying the system is not moving a problem to Bay Boulevard, but resolving a number of stormwater runoff and water-quality issues.

While some residents said the city should address the flooding at Bayfront Park, Wilcox noted that area is under the control of Manatee County, not the city.

Residents who live near the North Shore Drive-Gladiolus intersection, however, approved the project.

"I support the system," said Cheryl Bohn of North Shore Drive. "We get a huge lake on North Shore Drive" after heavy rains.

The system appears to drain the water and treat it before it goes into Tampa Bay, she said, and she can support such efforts.

Wilcox added that trees and shrubs in the alleyway will be preserved as much as possible. He and Public Works Director George McKay will walk the route in an effort to identify which trees and shrubs can be saved and he asked residents living along the alleyway to "tag" the trees and vegetation they would like saved.

The swale route can be moved slightly through the alleyway to accommodate some of the trees and plantings, Wilcox said.

Design engineering on the project should be completed by BDI in July, then submitted to Swiftmud for review. That agency should put the contract out for bid by early fall, said Wilcox, and construction could begin later this year.

He said all the suggestions made at the meeting will be considered before the final plans are submitted.

The project has taken approximately two years to move from commission approval through initial design and permitting to Swiftmud's award of the grant.

Wilcox said the city has grant applications for other stormwater drainage projects still pending with Swiftmud.