Gulfport City Council authorized the $1,780,582 project in February 2015. It was funded, in part, by a $640,291 grant from the Southwest Florida Water Management District, which was matched by the city of Gulfport. State Rep. Kathleen Peters then secured a $500,000 legislative appropriation to cover the rest of the cost.
The new diversion system “will prevent 7,500 pounds of pollutants, annually, from going into [the] bay,” said city of Gulfport public works director Don Sopak. “That includes phosphorus, nitrogen, a lot of smaller components and floatables – it catches all of that stuff that used to float all the way down 49th Street into the bay.”
According to a post on the city’s official Facebook page, “The 49th Street outfall project drainage area includes approximately 169 acres of commercial and residential properties that have no stormwater treatment facilities. Previously, all discharge for this basin was untreated and flowed directly into Boca Ciega Bay near the city of Gulfport’s public beach area.”
Gulfport Mayor Sam Henderson, as quoted in the Facebook post, hailed the completed project for establishing “a protective barrier for the Boca Ciega Bay Aquatic Preserve, a class III Outstanding Florida Waterbody.”
Sopak told the Gabber that the outfall project offers further proof of the city’s proactive approach to stormwater treatment.
“If you notice, all of our parks have stormwater treatment ponds,” he said. “We try to put those in any greenspace we have available, in order to treat stormwater. This was part of a final plan to put one in the last greenspace we could find, and that was down by the marina.”
According to the 49th Street Outfall Project page on the city’s website, the ponds and baffle boxes will remove some 2,320 pounds of pollution from Boca Ciega Bay, with 80 percent of the stormwater flow being discharged approximately 2,670 feet farther away from the beach.
“The project first got discussed about seven years ago,” Sopak explained. “It involves diverting what we call the ‘first flush’ of water that comes down the dry pipes that has all the debris, sediment and nutrients that we don’t want going into the bay. We divert that into those stormwater ponds. But first it goes into what’s called a sentry box – it’s a baffle box that collects suspended solids and floatable things like plastic bottles, bags, empty cigarette packs. We put in two of those boxes. The water then goes into first pond and then the second pond and then discharges into the water near the marina.”
Other stormwater retention ponds can be found at Ted Philips Wood Ibis Park, Tomlinson Park, Gulfport Elementary School, Boca Ciega High School, and Tangerine Greenway.
For more information about the project, visit mygulfport.us/49project.