Work likely to be complete this fall, instead of in August, county staff says
Almost two months after it began, Sarasota County’s drainage project on Siesta Key’s Higel Avenue and Ocean Boulevard has seen the installation of new pipelines and other structures in the ditches along Ocean Boulevard, county staff reported on June 17.
This week, staff added, work along Higel Avenue was to begin, including the retrofitting of two wet detention ponds with outfall structures, plus the creation of a new piped stormwater drainage system and the installation of a baffle box, the report noted.
However, The Sarasota News Leader learned that, as of June 23, the contractor’s crew still was focused on Ocean Boulevard. A resident of the area told the News Leader, via email, that, as of that morning, workers were continuing to pump water into trenches along Higel Avenue, and “all of [the trenches were] extremely full.”
Additionally, the resident pointed out that county signs and other notices have said that crews would be on-site Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., excluding holidays. “So far from what I see,” the resident noted, “they have not worked on Saturdays and work is not running up until 7 [p.m.].
On the website of AQUALIS Water Resource Management, which is based in Durham, N.C., Vice President Jason Abert explains, “Wet detention ponds are designed to manage the quantity and quality of runoff leaving your system, which is why they are one of the most common stormwater control measures (SCMs) used by landowners and businesses. Water quantity and quality are important to control and measure, because flooding and pollutants can affect the ecosystems and watersheds downstream. When a rain event occurs, wet ponds are designed to capture and store runoff,” so it can be treated and released “at a controlled rate, mimicking the natural flow rate before there were parking lots and buildings,” Abert added.
Outfall structures, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) explains, are locations where stormwater exits a facility — such as pipes, ditches, and swales — that transport stormwater.
Finally, in regard to baffle boxes, the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University points out that those devices “are infrastructure components typically found near the end of the stormwater management system,” often positioned at outfalls. They contain a series of sediment-settling chambers separated by baffles. Stormwater runoff enters through the boxes, “which capture sediment and pollutants in the storage zones,” the Institute adds. “When the first chamber is full, flow is directed to the second chamber, and so on. Larger particles, including marine debris, tend to settle in the first chamber and smaller particles associated with sediment accumulate in the other chambers.”
The Siesta project is scheduled to be completed this fall, staff said, although the original timeline called for the work to conclude in August.
As with any construction project underway during the late spring and summer, weather delays are not uncommon, as Spencer Anderson, director of the county’s Public Works Department has pointed out.
The June 2022 report for the Siesta initiative, provided on the county website, also explains that the contractor will “convert existing deep, wet ditches into shallow grassed swales fitted with ditch bottom inlets to drain into the new stormwater pipes … The project will provide protection against a 100-year storm event …”
The primary funding for the work comes from a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant, that update says.
The county report further notes that the design of the project cost $218,489.99, while the county awarded Gator Grading and Paving LLC of Palmetto $885,403.05 for construction.
Updates on the drainage work may be found on the county’s website on the pages dedicated to Projects in My Neighborhood, county Media Relations Officer Brianne Grant wrote in the June 17 project update.
Progress in pictures
A Siesta Key resident, who wishes to be identified only as a contributor to The Sarasota News Leader, has been documenting the work along Ocean Boulevard and Higel Avenue.
The following are selections from those reports: