A sand buildup is scientifically proven to be an increasing problem for some Dunedin residents.
And it may be the source of a political back-and-forth over whether taxpayers should foot an estimated $2.4 million dredging bill to get rid of it.
More than 15 years worth of sand and silt is filling Lake Sperry, a private neighborhood pond, and Cedar Creek, which abuts several residential yards, preventing the flow of runoff into St. Joseph Sound.
"There are going to be impacts to the system eventually if no maintenance is done out there," Joe Wagner, P.E., of Taylor Engineering, Inc., told Dunedin commissioners during a March 12 public workshop.
"It's going to a condition that's going to, at some point, cause stormwater and drainage problems," he said.
Some argue that the lengthy, intrusive, expensive project benefits just the 24 or so residents who adjoin 4.5-acre Lake Sperry and a select number of residents with private docks living along the Cedar Creek waterway.
But a large amount of the storm water running through the system is being carried in from upstream, results from Taylor Engineering's scientific analysis say.
With the outside consultant predicting potential stormwater drainage problems if Sperry Lake and Cedar Creek are left alone, city officials are left to decide how it's going to be paid for when the final report is unveiled, likely at a May 2 commission meeting.
Taylor Engineering told city officials that years of buildup is causing Lake Sperry to swell over its sea walls, causing sediment to wash up over the wall and into the space behind it, in turn, pushing the wall into the lake. Part of the problem is that the sea wall was not constructed properly to begin with, Wagner suggested.
Its instability creates a problem for crews that would be dredging at the lake, he explained. Raising the walls would stabilize the condition and reduce the need for longterm maintenance.
Commissioner Julie Scales suggested that another entity should be responsible for sea wall repairs.
"The sea walls are not a city-created problem," she said.
"I would not go forward with this project without dealing with those sea walls," Wagner said. "You are not going to do the ultimate benefit that needs to happen here. ... This is my personal (opinion) as an engineer wanting the system to work."
Officials asked how much it would cost to fix the sea wall at Sperry Lake, but he did not have a preliminary estimate.
"If you're saying you wouldn't do one without the other, then we need to know what the other is, too," Julie Ward Bujalski, vice mayor, said, regardless of who ends up paying for it.
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Then there's the problem of Cedar Creek.
Residents whose homes abut the creek have complained for years about the smell of feces, trash and debris accumulating in the increasingly shallow waters. Many of the residents have private docks jutting into the creek, but their water crafts can no longer navigate through it, especially during low tide.
The drying creek is allowing conditions for mangrove encroachment. If mangroves get into the area, it would choke it off and become a big stormwater issue, Wagner explained.
The engineer said state and federal agencies are strict about granting dredging permits for environmental purposes.
Half the creek, the western part which abuts numerous homeowners, would be eligible for a "navigation" permit; the other half, east of Bayshore Boulevard, would be eligible for an "stormwater drainage" permit.
"The only navigation that's occurring on the western side is those homes on the western side of Cedar Creek," she said, implying the project would only benefit those who have a private dock.
Bujalski pointed out that the city has docks, too, and that children use them in programs at Hammock Park.
The engineer said the reason for doing a project may be different than the cause for the permit.
In this case, if dredging maintenance occurs and Cedar Creek's condition improves, the water quality also improves and it flushes better.
If no maintenance is done, "then it becomes a very expensive problem," Wagner said.
"It's better to do maintenance at a certain point than to do reconstruction," he said.