TARPON SPRINGS — When Tarpon Springs officials learned their request for state funding for a portion of the Anclote River dredge project had been slashed from the budget last year by Gov. Ron DeSantis, the news was met with disappointment, but also a determination to not give up the fight.
Recently, the Board of Commissioners agreed to send a letter to state and local leaders, including Reps. Chris Sprowls and Chris Latvala and Sen. Ed Hooper, asking for their support for House Bill 2923, which calls for more than $724,000 in funding for the Extended Turning Basin portion of the multiphased dredge project.
Last week, there was joy at City Hall when word came down that the governor approved HB 2923 as well as HB 2925, which will provide more than $1.7 million for a flooding abatement system, or underground stormwater pump and vault, for the often-waterlogged Sponge Docks.
“I am very pleased to receive the good news … that the bills have been signed by the governor for the funding of the Anclote River Extended Turning Basin Dredge and the Sponge Docks Flooding Abatement (vault project) for the full amounts,” Tarpon Mayor Chris Alahouzos wrote in a June 2 Facebook post.
When asked how it felt to finally have the funding for the Extended Turning Basin — a portion of the dredge project not included in the federal work being conducted by the US Army Corps of Engineers — as well as money for the much-needed underground stormwater vault system, Alahouzos said he was elated.
“When I got the phone call from House Speaker Sprowls, and also Gus (U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis), and they told me the bills had been signed by Gov. DeSantis for the full amount we requested, my expression told it all,” the mayor said by phone June 9. “I was so happy and so grateful to them, especially after getting turned down last year.”
According to an Army Corps official, initial work on the dredge project, which is designed to restore the river and its turning basin — a portion of waterway near the east end of the Sponge Docks that allows large ships to turn around — would begin soon after the awarding of a bid for the construction of a temporary dredged material management area, which was expected to occur in late May.
Project manager Geoffrey Klug said assuming the bid was awarded on May 21, he estimated it would take roughly 60-75 days “to physically initiate work on site.”
At the time, Alahouzos said they were anxiously awaiting word from Tallahassee about the funding.
“As I’ve made clear, the Anclote River Dredge Project is very important not only to the city of Tarpon Springs but to all of Pinellas County,” he said. “And the continued support of these state, county and federal lawmakers proves that. This project would not be happening without their help, and we are all looking forward to the work starting very soon.”