NewsPinellas County


Concerned by sea level rise, Tarpon Springs looks to fix area plagued by tidal flooding

The city wants public input on its plan to fix the problematic intersection during a Wednesday night meeting
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Posted at 8:20 AM, Apr 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-27 23:16:03-04

TARPON SPRINGS, Fla. — John Keenan loves living in Tarpon Springs. His home, near the intersection of S Spring Blvd. and W. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr., is just steps from Whitcomb Bayou.

“I’ve been here five to six years. You know, have done a number of improvements to the home,” he said. “Intend to stick around. On the water. Got my boat lift fixed up.”

But there’s a problem that does worry him at times: flooding from the bayou. It’s a problem that can seem random and sudden and one that threatens his home and others in the area.

“How often? Well, it happens more during the, you know, you storm season — the hurricane season,” he said. “In terms of — any time we get a, you know, strong onshore wind coupled with high tide, this intersection will flood pretty extensively.”

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The flooding at the intersection — and other locations of Tarpon Springs — can be even more accentuated by king tides, which are very high tides that typically happen in the fall.

Last year, businesses told ABC Action News that the coastal flooding is getting worse. According to an assessment by Flood Factor, an online modeling tool developed by the First Street Foundation, “Tarpon Springs has a severe risk of flooding over the next 30 years, which means flooding is likely to impact day to day life within the community.”

As the threat of sea-level rise makes the threat more concerning, the city is looking for ways to mitigate localized flooding.

“[Tarpon Springs] is uniquely vulnerable to the impacts of sea-level rise and coastal storm events and future planning efforts should seek to identify these vulnerabilities and provide mitigating policy direction,” city staff wrote in a recent report.

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In the first phase of a new project, the city will take one step toward that goal. It wishes to raise and rebuild the intersection of Spring Blvd. and MLK Dr. to make traffic flow better and the flooding less severe.

"Either we do a typical four-way stop or a roundabout," said the Tarpon Springs Project Administration Director, Bob Robertson.

In a second phase, it wants to look broader at other flood-prone spots on the bayou to see how it can help improve those spots too.

"One way would be raising the roadway. Another would be installing a concrete wall, a vertical wall, and a third would be an earth and berm type solution," said Robertson.

The city got input from neighbors at a meeting Wednesday night from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Craig Park Recreation Hall at 5 Beekman Lane.

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ABC Action News caught up with Keenan after he left that meeting. When it comes to the proposed fixes for phase one, Keenan says he prefers the four-way stop.

"The roundabout would require more area making for less ground to be able to absorb the water so you know more impervious area, less places for the water to soak in. Second I think it puts the foot traffic and bicycle traffic, which there is a fair amount around here, at more risk because none of the cars are having to stop. Right? They’re just cruising right through. And then third is, I won't be able to get out of my driveway if people are zipping around the corner at 25 miles an hour," he said.

And when it comes to phase two. Keenan says a hybrid approach is best.

"I prefer the berm in combination with a masonry wall or some sort of wall for those spots where there's not enough real estate to build the berm," he said.

The city commission will eventually make the final decision at a future meeting. But, no matter what they pick, Keenan hopes the fix will work to stop the flooding from happening as often. While his home has not been damaged in any of the previous flooding episodes, he has had to evacuate.

“The worst it’s gotten is probably about knee-deep, but then, we have not taken any kind of direct hit either in terms of any storms,” he said.