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Pasco commissioner again seeks expanded Port Richey dredge

Pasco Commissioner Jack Mariano wants to expand the number of canals the city of Port Richey would dredge with money from the federal Restore Act. [City of Port Richey]

Posted on March 16, 2020

Pasco commissioner again seeks expanded Port Richey dredge

Pasco County Commissioner Jack Mariano wants to keep afloat an idea the city of Port Richey thought it had sunk already — expanding the city’s planned canal dredging linking Miller’s Bayou to the Pithlachascotee River.

Dredging that canal, technically two channels known as 1 and 26A, is considered key to revitalizing the city’s waterfront by making coastal businesses more accessible to boat traffic. It is how Port Richey wants to spend a federal allocation of reparation dollars from the British Petroleum Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.

Mariano, however, wants the city to expand the work to include five residential canals in the vicinity of Quist and Bluepoint drives and Miles Boulevard west of Old Post Road. He said the city should use the money from the Restore Act to leverage potential aid from the Department of Environmental Protection and Southwest Florida Water Management District.

The additional dredging, Mariano said, will aid west-side drainage, reduce chances of flooding from storm surge, improve water quality and simultaneously raise residential property values along the canals.

It is the same idea he pitched to the city last year and again to fellow county commissioners in November. He tried again last week during a face-to-face meeting with Port Richey Mayor Scott Tremblay and City Manager Vince Lupo.

Pasco County Commissioner Jack Mariano wants the Port Richey dredging project expanded to include five residential canals.

The city’s answer? No, thanks.

“I was blown away with their response,” Mariano told fellow commissioners Tuesday in Dade City

“It’s a difference of philosophy,” Tremblay countered in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times.

Dredging channel 1 and 26A is a public benefit, he said. Among other things, it would aid boaters — both city and county residents — who launch from Nick’s Park.

“Dredging the other five canals only benefits the people living on the canals. It’s irresponsible to spend taxpayers’ money to the benefit of a few people and not the entire community.” said Tremblay.

Fiscal stewardship is the same argument Mariano made to commissioners.

“We’ve got the responsibility to spend this money the right way,” he said.

The money in question is $667,000 that Pasco allocated to Port Richey in 2015 as one of the initial recipients of Restore Act funding. The city planned to dredge the two canals in its waterfront district and move the Nick’s Park boat ramp to the larger Waterfront Park to the north.

Separately, city officials have talked for more than two decades of trying to dredge approximately two dozen residential canals that are so muck-filled boaters are unable to launch at low tide. However, multimillion-dollar cost estimates and little public interest in paying special assessments stymied progress.

The city eventually scrapped the proposed boat ramp and parking lot because of cost concerns and downsized the Restore Act project to include just the main canal dredging. Later, the U.S. Department of the Treasury said the reduced scope of work didn’t conform to the original improvement plan. In November, county commissioners terminated the funding agreement with Port Richey.

Port Richey Mayor Scott Tremblay said Commissioner Jack Mariano has to respect the city’s decision on how to spend taxpayers’ money. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]

But instead of re-allocating the money to another project, the county agreed to have Mariano work with the city to devise a broader plan. That effort apparently was fruitless. The city resubmitted its proposal to the county, minus the five residential canals. City officials are scheduled to appear before the commission on March 24 to make their appeal in person.

On Tuesday, Mariano repeated his previous statement that just the dredging of the main canal wouldn’t have passed muster with the county’s Restore Act Advisory Committee, which he chairs, when the panel ranked the appropriation requests five years ago.

Tremblay offered a different view.

Mariano, the mayor said, “has got to respect the city and how we choose to spend the taxpayers’ money.’’


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