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This study will examine water quality issues in Old Tampa Bay.

Project Area Information

Tampa Bay is divided into seven major bay segments, which are Old Tampa Bay, Hillsborough Bay, Middle Tampa Bay, Lower Tampa Bay, Terra Ceia Bay, Manatee River and Boca Ciega Bay (see map).

Old Tampa Bay is 84-square miles of open water, representing the northwest portion of Tampa Bay. Old Tampa Bay is separated from Hillsborough Bay by the Interbay peninsula and may be seen while traveling on the region’s Courtney Campbell Causeway, Howard Frankland Bridge and Gandy Bridge.

The Old Tampa Bay watershed is about 250-square miles and encompasses northwest Hillsborough and central Pinellas counties. Over the last 50 years the land has transitioned from natural habitat to primarily urban development, negatively impacting the water that ultimately reaches Old Tampa Bay.

Project Background

Unlike other bay segments, the water quality and seagrass coverage in Old Tampa Bay has not responded to efforts to reduce nitrogen as well as other segments. Recent studies and recurring algae blooms in the upper portions of Tampa Bay over the last few years have indicated the need for a localized assessment.

Aerial image of a large algae bloom that occurred in Old Tampa Bay just north of the Howard Frankland Bridge during summer 2011. (Photo credit: Dorian Aerial & Architectural Photographics)

Project Details

The District and the Tampa Bay Estuary Program developed this project to determine the primary factors leading to the poorer water quality and habitat conditions observed in Old Tampa Bay.

The project will develop an Old Tampa Bay model, which is an integrated set of computer models that estimate the amount of water and nitrogen flowing from the Old Tampa Bay watershed to the bay, simulate changes to circulation in the bay and estimate the bay’s water quality improvements.

The assessment will be completed by using the Old Tampa Bay Model to evaluate specific management actions and simulate how the various changes could affect the bay’s ecosystem. The Old Tampa Bay Model will determine benefits to water quality, circulation, wildlife and aquatic life such as increased seagrass coverage.

Sample of muck that covers some areas of Old Tampa Bay.

The following actions will be evaluated:

  • Redirecting freshwater discharges away from Old Tampa Bay, some of which did not historically flow to Tampa Bay
  • Altering the operation of the District-owned structures on Channels A and G
  • Adding culverts or bridge extensions to one or more of the three major bridges that span Old Tampa Bay
  • Redirecting existing wastewater treatment plant discharges
  • Implementing actions such as stormwater treatment systems

If feasible, implementation of these actions will require continued coordination among the project partners.

Project Partners

The District and the Tampa Bay Estuary Program are collaborating with the Old Tampa Bay Working Group, which includes stakeholders from around Old Tampa Bay including Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission, Florida Department of Transporation, Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the cities of Tampa, Safety Harbor, Clearwater and Oldsmar.

Project Timeline

The project began in October 2011 and is expected to be complete by June 2014.


For More Information

Contact Lizanne Garcia, SWIM Program environmental scientist, at 1-800-836-0797 (FL only), ext. 2204.