ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Communities across Tampa Bay are fed up with the growing problem of neighborhood streets turning into rivers and threatening thousands of homes.
Now, two local congressmen are joining federal leaders to find solutions to better protect your home and neighborhood. Congressmen Gus Bilirakis and Charlie Crist have joined the American Flood Coalition, a nonpartisan alliance to address the growing threat of flooding and sea level rise.
Bilirakis, a Palm Harbor Republican, and Crist, a St. Petersburg Democrat, represent portions of Florida’s Gulf Coast, including all of Pinellas County.
It comes at a crucial time. According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, coastal communities in Tampa Bay are projected to experience roughly 4-5 inches of sea level rise over the next 15 years.
Flood-prone properties in St. Petersburg have lost an estimated $244 million in value due to flooding and rising sea levels since 2005 and are projected to lose an additional $280 million over the next 15 years. In 2016, Tropical Storm Hermine caused an estimated $89 million in flooding damages throughout Pasco County alone.
"I am committed to ensuring access to affordable flood insurance and continued investment in the infrastructure improvements needed to prevent future flooding,” Bilirakis explained.
“Flooding is the costliest and most common natural disaster in the U.S. - claiming lives, damaging households and businesses, and straining government agencies,” said Crist, “I’m proud to join the American Flood Coalition, an effort to bridge party lines and levels of government to promote and enact practical solutions to this common, growing threat.”
With Congressmen Bilirakis and Crist joining, the American Flood Coalition now grows to 17 members.
Toni Palmer, a St. Pete homeowner in the Shore Acres neighborhood is hopeful the coalition will make a difference. Even on perfectly sunny days, her neighborhood floods during high tide. “It's been up to our knees before. A bandaid is not going to help anymore, this is a huge infrastructure problem. It’s a national problem,” she said with a sigh.
Just a few blocks away from Palmer's home, construction crews are jacking up an entire slab house onto a new concrete foundation. Mike Knapp of AJS Building Moving and Leveling says moving an existing home up 16 feet above its original foundation may seem strange, but it is becoming a popular option as flooding problems persist.
“It’s definitely a cheaper route to go with lifting the foundation then knocking the home down and building new,” Knapp explained.
The home he's currently working on at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NE should be finished by late August, and Knapp says he already has 4-5 other homeowners interested in similar projects in the Shore Acres St. Pete neighborhood.
Congressmen Crist and Bilirakis tell ABC Action News they’re confident working together with national leaders will help them secure more funding for critical projects in flood- prone areas across Tampa Bay and the state of Florida.