The federal government plans to support efforts to dredge the Anclote River in the Tampa Bay area with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sending $3.5 million to the city of Tarpon Springs for that purpose.
U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., announced the funding on Friday morning.
“Dredging the Anclote River is the only way to protect the community’s business development and coastal safety,” Bilirakis said. “This important project will bring a host of benefits to my constituents and to the Tampa Bay region, which is why I would not stop fighting for the funding until we got it done.”
The congressman’s office made the case for why the funds were needed and why this project was so important.
“The economic value of the Anclote River is of significant importance to the city of Tarpon Springs, Pinellas County, and the entire Tampa Bay region,” Bilirakis’ office noted. “According to a 2016 Economic Impact Study, the river services over 150 marine and tourism related businesses, accounting for $252 million in commerce. These businesses and the river’s natural beauty attract more than 1.1 million visitors to Tarpon Springs each year.
“Additionally, Tarpon Springs accounts for 56 percent of all commercial fish landed in Pinellas County,” the congressman’s team continued. “Silt build-up on the riverbed created shallow water levels, which can be less than three feet deep at low tide. These risks have not only impacted businesses along the river and the Tampa Bay region, but threaten the Tarpon Springs port as a harbor of safe refuge for endangered vessels. After Hurricane Irma, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducted a bathymetric survey of the river which showed significant worsening of the shoaling due to the hurricane.”
Bilirakis thanked state Rep. Chris Sprowls, Tarpon Springs Mayor Chris Alahouzos, Commissioner David Banther and Commissioner Dave Eggers for their help on the matter.
Kevin Derby can be reached at Kevin.Derby@floridadaily.com.