Hillsborough County’s $2.5 million drainage improvement project, on Stearns and Hillgrove roads in Valrico, which was to begin last summer, finally got underway last month.
While intended to fix the reoccurring flooding in the area, the project is received with some mixed feelings on the part of local residents as it requires the sacrifice of a number of mature oak trees that have been beautifying the neighborhood for decades.
Weighing the pros and cons of the necessary construction, county spokesperson Steve Valdez reportedly put things in perspective when he said, “It’s either the trees or the project.”
Valdez said that the work will take about six months to complete and will be costly.
“This project has been in the works for years,” Valdez said during an interview prior to the start of the construction, which began with the removal of the trees, some of which measured close to four feet in diameter.
The construction includes upgrading the existing drainage system by replacing old drainage pipes, deepening the adjacent ditches as well as installing a storm water pump station, which will pump the water into a retention pond in order to alleviate roadway flooding in the area.
Workers will also widen Little Stearns Rd. to ease trucks access to the nearby drainage site.
While unhappy with the construction proses, for many, the tree preservation still has to take second place as it comes down to deciding between a tree-filled habitat or a flooded yard after a normal summer rain.
To Hillgrove Rd. resident James Anderson, 77, who has been dealing with the roadway flooding in his neighborhood, the county’s effort is way too late and, believes that the flooding could have been avoided much earlier without the necessity of sacrificing the trees that were a part of the reason why many have chosen to live in the neighborhood.
“Ever since the county allowed shopping centers to be built here, the homes on our street flood during a bad storm,” Anderson said. “We protested and a suit was filed against Publix supermarket prior to the project, but it did not do any good,” he said.
Anderson is convinced that the parking lot located on the corner of Lithia Pinecrest Rd. and Bloomingdale Ave. as well as the shopping center on the opposite side of Lithia Pinecrest Rd. is the reason for the flooding and the main source of the drainage problem.
While the planned improvements will help local homeowners, it is only designed to control the roadways and will not fix the flooding that may naturally occur on a homeowner-to-homeowner property.
“To be honest, I am tired of it,” Anderson said. “But, I will be glad with any improvements the county is now doing.”
For more information about the project, please visit www.hillsboroughcounty.org