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August 22, 2007

The Southwest Florida Water Management District is working with the Tampa Bay Estuary Program to determine the potential environmental impact of mucky sediments in the Safety Harbor area of Old Tampa Bay.

The Safety Harbor watershed, located within Pinellas County, has changed significantly over the past 100 years. The watershed has gone from being primarily rural to primarily urban. In addition, the construction of the Lake Tarpon Outfall Canal increased the size of the watershed draining into Safety Harbor.

These changes have led to an increase in the accumulation of sediment and muck. Other estuaries, including Charlotte Harbor and Chesapeake Bay, have also experienced a build-up. The accompanying watersheds have also transitioned from rural to urban watersheds.

This study will help determine the source of the muck build-up in Safety Harbor and whether the muck is impacting organisms that live and feed in the sediments. After the study is completed, the partners will evaluate the information and determine the next course of action, which may include selecting projects to reduce sedimentation in Safety Harbor or remove the muck.

The study is being conducted by the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science, Eckerd College and the United States Geological Survey.

The total budget for the project is $149,494. The District’s share of $94,494 will be divided between the District’s Pinellas-Anclote River Basin Board and Surface Water Improvement and Management Program. Pinellas County and the cities of Oldsmar and Safety Harbor have also budgeted funds for the project.

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