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Commissioners discuss allocating funds to tackle floods in low-lying areas

Roughly $2.6 million could be moved toward flooding mitigation projects and may soon be a topic of consideration for the Longboat Key Town Commission.

Chris Udermann captured pictures of flooding in the Village following a weather event in April 2024.
Chris Udermann captured pictures of flooding in the Village following a weather event in April 2024.
Courtesy image
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Fixing flooding issues isn’t easy, nor cheap. But some extra funds in the town’s budget could soon accelerate the design process. 

At the Longboat Key Town Commission’s April 15 strategic planning retreat, town commissioners discussed long-term planning as well as the challenges the island faces. Among those challenges, flooding remained a top priority to address. 

“We’re a premier community. We want to make sure that we’re maintaining our infrastructure and that would be an opportunity to do so,” Town Manager Howard Tipton said at the retreat. 

The town is currently in the process of preparing for drainage improvement projects in three of the most low-lying areas in Longboat Key: Buttonwood, Sleepy Lagoon and the Village. 

Common elements among the projects include increased road elevation and additional drainage structures like inlet drainage boxes. 

The project closest to coming to fruition is Sleepy Lagoon, the first phase of which would be focused on Norton Street. The street is one of the lowest-lying streets in town, with an elevation of 1.1 feet. 

The issue now is funding. 

The Sleepy Lagoon project now has an estimated cost of $8.5 million, Buttonwood is around $5 million and the Village project’s cost is still to be determined. 

Tipton said staff hopes to cover most of those costs with grants with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP). 

The HMGP is set up for grants to assist in “rebuilding after a major disaster in a way that reduces future disaster losses,” according to FEMA

In this case, the town is applying for grants relating to Hurricanes Ian and Idalia. 

For Buttonwood, a Hurricane Ian HMGP grant application was submitted for the amount of $3,635,594. Town staff is preparing a Hurricane Idalia HMGP grant for $1 million. 

A Hurricane Ian HMGP grant application is out for the Sleepy Lagoon project for $1,465,573. The project’s Hurricane Idalia HMGP application is in the works, for the amount of $791,173. 

Though the Village’s project cost is still undecided, staff submitted a Hurricane Ian HMGP application for $2.8 million, and a Hurricane Idalia HMGP application for $500,000 is in the works. 

“We actually feel, based on the discussions we’re having, that there’s some interest in funding us,” Tipton said. “So that’s the good news. That’s the bulk of the money that we’ve applied for.”

Tipton also said that the grants applied for through the Hurricane Ian HMGP are far along in the grants process. 

But the money from the grants wouldn’t completely cover the costs. That’s why Tipton brought up to commissioners a suggestion to reallocate extra funds. 

There is about $2.6 million of Florida Power & Light funds that were earmarked for multi-path lighting. The money is currently in the Streets Fund, but Tipton said the commission could consider moving those funds to be used for designing some of the drainage projects ahead of receiving grant money. 

“All of this to say that if resilience and flooding are our top priority, we’ve got some opportunities to put some resources, whether it's grants or reallocating existing dollars, we’ve got some opportunities to really start making some accelerated progress,” Tipton said.

Tipton said the idea behind this is that a project is usually more attractive to grant providers the closer it is to construction. By making these funds available, design could be moved closer and make the projects stand out more. 

“And then if you agree at a future board meeting, we can talk about moving those dollars over into the street flooding redesigning program so that we can accelerate what we’re trying to do,” Tipton said to commissioners. 

At the retreat, commissioners weren’t opposed to the idea, but no voting could take place at that meeting. 

What’s next?

The Norton Street project is the first to get started. 

Representatives with Kimley-Horn and the town met with residents during a public meeting on April 9, and a second meeting is scheduled for July 29. 

Plans for this project are expected to be completed around Nov. 5, and construction is estimated to start in March 2025. 

Aside from the three problem areas — Sleepy Lagoon, Buttonwood and the Village — Director of Public Works Isaac Brownman told commissioners there are a couple other spots on the island that could be the subject of future projects. 

Those include Gulfside Road, St. Judes Drive and Dream Island Road. 

For Gulfside Road, Brownman said the road frequently experiences drainage issues from excessive rainfall and storm surge. Some of the issues stem from how the road was built. 

“It was platted a long time ago as an alley, a very tight alley,” Brownman said.

But as for the funding consideration for the three main projects, the decision will come before the commission in June. 



Carter Weinhofer

Carter Weinhofer is the Longboat Key news reporter for the Observer. Originally from a small town in Pennsylvania, he moved to St. Petersburg to attend Eckerd College until graduating in 2023. During his entire undergraduate career, he worked at the student newspaper, The Current, holding positions from science reporter to editor-in-chief.

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