It's on us. Share your news here.

Pasco considers assessing coastal residents to dredge canals

Pasco County will consider an ordinance on Tuesday that will allow special assessments of coastal property owners to pay for dredging canals.

Posted on February 22, 2023

Pasco County officials have tried for years to figure out how to keep a plan to dredge the county’s coastal canals afloat amid concerns the multimillion-dollar cost could sink it.

On Tuesday, the Pasco County Commission will consider sharing the expense with the property owners benefiting from deeper and wider canals.

If commissioners authorize a new special assessment ordinance, the still-to-be-determined charges will be affixed to property tax bills. First, county staff will have to calculate the overall costs and assemble the list of properties to share the expense.

Specifics on how much could be on each property owner’s tax bill won’t be settled until commissioners discuss their 2024 county budget later this summer.

The proposed ordinance would affect waterfront communities that stretch 27 miles along the coast from Aripeka to Bailey’s Bluff. The assessment would be used to finance dredging canals that run through a dozen coastal waterfront neighborhoods and out to the Gulf of Mexico.

Many of those waterways haven’t seen routine maintenance since they were dug in the 1960s unless private individuals or communities performed the work themselves.

“Aside from the Hudson Channel, last dredged around 2005, most of the channels and canals have not been dredged or received significant maintenance since they were first created and some have become partially blocked and certain channels are impassible during low tides, thereby reducing boating activities and restricting certain routes,” according to the commission agenda.

Coastal residents have asked repeatedly for help from the county to make those canals passable again.

Pasco County commissioners are preparing to approve an ordinance creating a new special assessment for coastal land owners to help pay for canal dredging projects.

Dredging is needed to keep them navigable for both recreational and commercial fishing interests, county officials have said. They also kicked around funding options after a study several years ago put the cost at $13.5 million but new estimates listed the expense at $14.2 million.

Part of the cost could be covered by the American Rescue Plan and the federal Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast Act, known commonly as the Restore Act, which distributes damage payments from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The county also will seek “any other potential available grants for dredging canals or channels and related activities,” said Pasco’s public infrastructure director, Justin Grant.

“Any such funds obtained through these sources would be utilized to reduce the overall amount (of) any future assessment,” he said.

Gulf Harbors resident Skip Geiger knows how expensive dredging can be. He used to be in the business that helped dredge some of the local canals. He now looks at the issue as the owner of two boats and said he is willing to pay his fair share.

“This is just a preliminary thing to get some funds in their coffers,” he said. “This is just the best approach they could take to get started.”

Geiger said the county needs to follow up with finding federal and state grant dollars to supplement the assessment.

The county has considered a variety of funding mechanisms over time. At one point, former state Rep. Amber Mariano proposed raising fees on boat owners to help pay the bill, but the concept wasn’t popular among residents elsewhere in Pasco who boat on freshwater lakes instead of coastal canals. The idea never gained traction.

Her father, Pasco County Commission chairperson Jack Mariano, has been a vocal supporter of dredging. In recent discussions, he has opted out of voting, citing “an abundance of caution” because of the potential conflict he has owning waterfront investment property near Hudson Beach.


It's on us. Share your news here.
Submit Your News Today

Join Our
Click to Subscribe