Pipelines and other structures installed in ditches along Siesta Key’s Ocean Boulevard as company handling drainage project makes progress

Work likely to be complete this fall, instead of in August, county staff says

This graphic shows the area of the Ocean Boulevard/Higel Avenue drainage project that has begun. Image courtesy Sarasota County

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.

This is a section of the engineering plans for the Higel Avenue/Ocean Boulevard drainage project. Image courtesy Sarasota County

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.

These are more engineering drawings for the Higel Avenue/Ocean Boulevard drainage project show details of the plans. Image courtesy Sarasota County

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:

June 4

This is a photo of the house on the east side of the intersection of Ocean Boulevard and Higel Avenue, next to the stop sign. Earlier, concrete pipes were stacked in front of the home, covering an old trench. Workers had to move the pipes, piling them up in front of the houses south of the intersection. One of the pipes was placed underground, where the trench existed. A sump pump is visible on the left, by the stop sign; it was running the day the photo was taken. Additionally, a PVC pipe runs south on Ocean Boulevard, along the house’s privacy wall.
This is another view of the same house at the Higel-Ocean intersection, just a little further south, showing a payloader sitting atop a filled-in trench with what appears to be a concrete pipe beneath it.
For this photo, the contributor stood in the driveway of the same house, facing the stop sign on Ocean Boulevard and the sump pump. Water from the pump is flowing through a hose and is then being deposited into the trenches on Higel Avenue, leading to Reid Street.
With the contributor still standing in the driveway of the house on Higel Avenue, the street is visible at left, with water shown as it is being pumped into the drainage trench.

June 11

This photo, taken in front of the second house from the intersection of Ocean Boulevard and Higel Avenue, on the east side of the street, shows that one of the two driveways is blocked. The concrete pipes in the original trench are under the payloader. A commercial-size sump pump is running, with PVC pipes stretching under the payloader.
This is the trench on Higel Avenue. The photographer is standing at the stop sign. All the trenches between there and Reid Street are full. The hose carrying the water from the pump is collapsible, because it goes over the driveway for the corner house.
  1. The photographer is standing in the driveway of the corner House on Higel, looking south toward Reid Street. The sump pump is directing water to this location. The trench is full.
The photographer is standing at the intersection of Reid Street and Higel Avenue at the Out-of-Door Academy. The trench is not only full but also overflowing. The payloader is sitting in the water.

June 18

These pipes are staged on Reid Street next to the Out-of-Door Academy’s athletic field. Three more of these are staged on Ocean Boulevard.

1 thought on “Pipelines and other structures installed in ditches along Siesta Key’s Ocean Boulevard as company handling drainage project makes progress”

  1. This Ocean-Higel stormwater problem needs to be solved, but stormwater, even treated stormwater, moving through these pipes by this amount is fresh water entering the Grand Canal. The volume of this water after a hurricane or typical summer storm will impact the efforts to restore the Grand Canal as a juvenile marine habitat.
    When this stormwater project was first reported, it was stated the water would go into the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). However, there was no mention of using the canals to convey that stormwater to the ICW. Are the Lotus Canal residents and others on the Grand Canal aware of this potential impact on their community? This project should change the endpoint and move the stormwater along Mangrove Point out to the ICW.

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