- May 27, 2022
A new wastewater pipeline under Sarasota Bay is a step closer to its funding needs after receiving $3 million in federal grants for the project.
The project is one of two that is working to replace the town of Longboat Key's sewer main after a break occurred in June 2020, spilling millions of gallons of effluent in Manatee County.
The other project focuses on relining the mainland portion of the pipe and is nearly complete.
When the town will receive the funding into its budget is still unknown, but depending on when and how the funds are received, the design-phase portion of the project under the bay could be completed sooner than anticipated.
The town said the $3 million it received matched its request when it applied for federal funds. The appropriation follows approval of the 2023 Omnibus budget approved by Congress in December.
“The portion under the bay still needs to be fully designed with potential permit modifications, so those would most likely be the next steps,” Public Works Director Isaac Brownman wrote in an email. “The town is exploring construction delivery methods because that will define how the design proceeds forward. Originally, funding for final design completion was not anticipated until town fiscal year 2024, so depending on when and how this funding is disbursed, this could advance the completion of design sooner.”
The final permits have been acquired from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and United States Army Corps of Engineers for the underwater portion.
When the town decided to feed a new, smaller and more durable pipe into the existing one, it was also able to reduce the total replacement costs for that portion of the project. Previously, the plan was to build an entirely new pipe running parallel to the existing one, which went into service in the 1970s.
The original pipe was built to accommodate more than 50,000 residents on the Key. The reality is a peak season population of about half that number after a 1984 decision to rezone the island changed the trajectory of its growth and development.
Th reality of that smaller peak population allowed the town to pursue the alternate, cheaper replacement method for the pipe.
Upon completion of the mainland portion, about 5,000 feet of the pipe will have been lined. That portion is expected to cost about $2.6 million, including engineering, permitting, material purchase and construction.
The entirety of the pipeline from the town to the county’s treatment facility measures about 4 miles. About 1.2 miles were identified for work within the mainland project.
The total cost for replacing the entire sewer line was originally estimated to be about $24.8 million when the town was going to build the parallel pipe, but with the new method for the mainland portion the new estimated cost is about $21.7 million.
Due to the environmental damages caused by the sewer main break, the town entered into a consent order with FDEP in February 2021 to help offset some of the damages in lieu of a penalty payment. Payment was not entirely avoided as the agreement required the town to pay $15,000 to the Nature Coast Mitigation Bank.
Final steps in the agreement include the replacement of the wastewater pipeline, approval from FDEP of the town’s restoration plan and post-construction monitoring of restoration areas following pipeline replacement.