After a horrific year of pollution and seagrass loss in Tampa Bay, Rep. Castor and Hillsborough Commissioner Mariella Smith announce plans to protect and improve Tampa Bay’s water quality

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Today, U.S. Representative Kathy Castor (FL14) and Hillsborough County Commissioner Mariella Smith announced plans to protect and improve water quality in Tampa Bay. Castor also wrote to Florida Senate Speaker Wilton Simpson and State House Speaker Chris Sprowls urging them to partner with local leaders with the resources provided by Congress in the historic Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act as the state legislature begins legislative session.

Representatives Castor and Mariella Smith, who also chair the Hillsborough Environmental Protection Commission, today hosted an event outlining the provisions of the bipartite infrastructure act to support the cleanup of Tampa Bay and protect the Florida natural resources. The video of this event can be found here.

“The historic bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (“ IIJA ”) provides the State of Florida and local communities with important new resources to clean up Tampa Bay, and I have highlighted the recommendations below. Many federal drinking water funding initiatives require action from state and local communities, so I encourage you to act quickly this session on the many initiatives that will improve Tampa Bay’s water quality and boost our economy.

“The IIJA provides strong new resources for modernize local water and sanitation infrastructure, reduce costs for homeowners and deal with costly extreme events fueled by the climate crisis. The IIJA continuously requires states to distribute a minimum of 10 percent (and a maximum of 30 percent) of their state revolving funds to municipalities in the form of grants to increase the affordability of sanitation infrastructure. for local communities. The law also prioritizes investments in green infrastructure as well as water and energy efficiency to increase the resilience of public services to climate change and address vulnerabilities to natural or man-made disasters and cyber attacks. Importantly, the law protects local water quality and public health by investing in the repair and replacement of failing septic systems, including communities that currently do not have access to adequate wastewater treatment systems. Additional attention is needed for failing and poorly maintained private laterals in older communities, which can overwhelm public sewer systems. Utilities need help to remove any obstacles they may face in dealing with pipe leaks on homeowners’ private properties. I urge you to send these resources to local communities, ”Castor wrote.

The full letter can be read here and below:

January 7, 2022

The Honorable Wilton Simpson

President

409 The Capitol

404 S. Monroe Street

Tallahassee, Florida 32399-1100

The Honorable Chris Sprowls

Speaker

Florida House of Representatives

420 The Capitol

402 Monroe Street South

Tallahassee, Florida 32399-1300

RE: Protecting the economy of Tampa Bay and Tampa Bay

Dear President Simpson and Speaker Sprows:

As leaders of the Tampa Bay area, I hope you share my commitment to protecting the economy of the Tampa Bay area, the health of Tampa Bay itself, and the entire watershed. I urge you to take action to protect and improve Tampa Bay’s water quality during the next legislative session. The devastating Piney Point disaster in 2021 and the resulting red tide, as well as sewer overflows, water quality degradation and manatee deaths require action. Pollution in Tampa Bay has reduced healthy seagrass beds after decades of improvement. Fish, manatees and marine life are suffering.

Historic Biparty Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (“IIJA”) Provides State of Florida and Local Communities with Important New Resources to Clean Up Tampa Bay, and I’ve highlighted the recommendations below. Many of the federal drinking water funding initiatives require action by the state and local communities, so I encourage you to act quickly this session on the many initiatives that will improve Tampa Bay’s water quality and boost our economy..

The IIJA provides strong new resources for modernize local water supply and sanitation infrastructure, reduce costs for homeowners and deal with costly extreme events fueled by the climate crisis. The IIJA continuously requires states to distribute a minimum of 10 percent (and a maximum of 30 percent) of their state revolving funds to municipalities in the form of grants to increase the affordability of sanitation infrastructure. for local communities. The law also prioritizes investments in green infrastructure as well as water and energy efficiency to increase the resilience of public services to climate change and address vulnerabilities to natural or man-made disasters and cyber attacks. Importantly, the law protects local water quality and public health by investing in the repair and replacement of failing septic systems, including communities that currently do not have access to adequate wastewater treatment systems. Additional attention is needed for failing and poorly maintained private laterals in older communities, which can overwhelm public sewer systems. Utilities need help to remove any obstacles they may face in dealing with pipe leaks on homeowners’ private properties. I urge you to ship these resources to local communities.

Federal Covid19 emergency assistance strengthens the state of Florida’s ability to meet important needs, including a liquidation (once and for all) of the abandoned Piney Point gypsum pile. The devastating breach should never have happened again after the first toxic overflow in 2003. I am sure you agree with the need to eliminate the danger posed by Piney Point, and that you share my belief that it is. unfortunate that taxpayers are at the mercy of taxpayers. for the price of disaster. The proceeds of any legal action against HRK Holdings should reimburse Florida taxpayers. The state has an obligation to oversee the rehabilitation of gypsum chimneys along Tampa Bay and prevent these devastating disasters from happening again.

I urge the state to accelerate purchase and retention of property along Tampa Bay and throughout the watershed. Florida voters overwhelmingly support land conservation efforts, as evidenced by support from stakeholders such as the Tampa Bay Estuary Program and the passage of Amendment 1 to the Florida Constitution in 2014 which ordered the state to conserve “lands, including wetlands and forests; fish and wildlife habitat; lands protecting water resources and drinking water sources,… and the water quality of rivers, lakes and streams; beaches and shores; outdoor recreational grounds; … For 20 years. Sadly, the state has failed to live up to its responsibility to Floridians and has even diverted money from these vital conservation efforts. Please act before it is too late to buy and conserve these vital areas. They are long term “cost savers” for taxpayers.

State Task Force on Blue-Green Algae offered important recommendations in 2019 that should be implemented by the state as soon as possible to address the main drivers of algal blooms and degradation of aquatic ecosystems, which can exacerbate the influx and seepage problems that cause sanitary sewer overflows.

You know how the health of Upper Tampa Bay and its surrounding communities of, Town n ‘Country, Oldsmar, Safety Harbor are, and they can be overlooked, but the state and agencies like the Southwest Florida Water Management District and Florida Department of Transportation must do more to improve water quality in this region. For example, current initiatives along the Howard Frankland and Gandy Blvd Bridges still do not consider changes as needed infrastructure upgrades that would benefit the ecosystem and economy of Tampa Bay. Bridge replacement projects must prioritize better water circulation, rinsing and protection of wetlands in the area.

Important partners like the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, the Bay Area Management Agency and the Cities and Counties need support for their efforts to protect our local economy, our jobs and the natural environment that makes life possible. in the special Tampa Bay area. Do not tie the hands of local communities seeking to protect Tampa Bay, local neighborhoods and economic interests. Instead, I invite you to to help them improve environmental protection efforts and so to save huge sums of taxpayer money which are spent to deal with disasters.

Together, we can improve the health of Tampa Bay and the entire ecosystem, and ensure our local economy remains strong. Thank you for the opportunity to share my recommendations and for your service to the State of Florida and Tampa Bay.

Truly,

Kathy Castor,

Representative of the United States

Fourteenth District, Florida

CC :

City of Tampa, Mayor Jane Castor

Hillsborough County Commissioners

Hillsborough County Administrator Bonnie Wise

Hillsborough County Legislative Delegation

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