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Tampa scraping up money for flood projects after fee rejected

With the rainy season fast approaching, fixing Tampa’s flood-prone neighborhoods is once again on the radar of city officials.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn raised the issue during his State of the City speech this month, saying Tampa must address the long-running problem.

But it seems there is still little agreement on how to pay for some or all of the $251 million worth of drainage projects officials say are needed to significantly reduce flooding across the city. A majority of city council members in November balked at adopting a new stormwater improvement assessment to pay for the work.

Now, stormwater officials are looking into whether they can at least tackle flooding in two hot spots before the deadline later this summer to get additional funding from the Southwest Florida Water Management District, or Swiftmud.

The $40 million Upper Peninsula Flooding Relief project would include the installation of three box culverts to improve drainage in areas where Dale Mabry Highway intersects with both Henderson Boulevard and Neptune Street and also areas farther west.

The first phase of the project would be funded through a $2.5 million grant from Swiftmud, which the city would match. To qualify for the funding, however, the city must execute a funding agreement by the end of September, said Brad Baird, Tampa public works and utility services administrator, who met Friday with Swiftmud Executive Director Robert Beltran.

The deadline for another $40 million project known as the Cypress Street Outfall Extension is even more pressing with the city needing to finalize agreement of an $8.5 million matching grant by the end of June to qualify for funding in 2017. The money would go toward the installation of major box culverts on Cass and Cypress streets to resolve flooding in areas west of the Hillsborough River and south of Columbus Drive.