Apollo Beach Waterway Improvement Group Seeks Support For Channel Dredging

Hillsborough County Commissioner (District I) Sandy Murman, talks to residents about the Apollo Beach community plan during a recent meeting hosted by Apollo Beach Waterway Improvement Group (ABWIG) in connection with a channel dredging project to benefit resident boaters. Murman praised the group’s effort to raise money, and promised her support for the project that is yet to see its funding complete.

Apollo Beach Waterway Improvement Group (ABWIG) president Len Berkstresser, had just one wish, ahead of a recently held group meeting in connection with a channel dredging project.
“I wanted the see the Apollo Beach Beggins Century 21 offices conference room filled to capacity with our residents, members and supporters of our cause,” Berkstresser told the room full of attendees keen on launching the project as soon as it is financially possible.

ABWIG is a volunteer organization created 15 years ago to dredge Apollo Beach’s main channels. The group is once again faced with the problem of keeping area boaters happy. Sediment deposits and the natural tides that have considerably decreased the depth of the channels over the years. 

“It is time for us to join together once again and work toward the preservation of our waterways,” Berkstresser said, and explained that ABWIG has already obtained the required permits. It has been working toward developing a “Request for Proposal” (RFP) to facilitate dredging of three areas in Apollo Beach, including the North Channel that is adjacent to the TECO Big Bend power plant, the South Channel from Bal Harbor going in to Symphony Isles and MiraBay as well as the Main Channel, south of Andalucia.

Supporters of  the project now include Hillsborough’s Parks, Recreation and Conservation Department, the county’s Environmental Protection Commission (EPC), the county administration, the Tampa Port Authority and The Southwest Florida Water Management District (Swiftmud).

While a small group of ABWIG volunteers have already raised approximately $100,000 in a relatively short amount of time, it has fallen short of the group’s $250,000 goal.

“There is much more needed if we are to successfully undertake this very challenging project,” Berkstresser said and mentioned that if the neighboring communities shared the cost, work on the south channel dredging, could begin by his summer.

“The north channel work cannot be undertaken until funding is complete, but time is running out since during the colder months the manatees winter in the warm power plant run-off waters., pushing this portion of the project to the summer of 2013.”

Also presents during the meeting was Hillsborough County Commissioner (District I) Sandy Murman, who praised the group’s industriousness in behalf of their community.

“You have come together like no other group I have ever seen,” Murman said. “Your advocacy is amazing and from this point forward, it will be a vital part of not only the dredging, but other projects planned for the Apollo Beach community.”

The dredging does not include the cleaning out of the smaller canals although residents did have an opportunity to create special taxing districts, which would have made a way to cover such work. However, the idea did not receive much support.

When all is said and done, ABWIG is currently facing a deficit with approximately $150,000, but Berkstresser is optimistic of the community’s support and the project’s success before time runs out.
For more information, please visit www.ABWIG.org.