You Paid For It: $3.2 million Tampa drainage project over budget and overdue

Watrous Canal two months ago

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — It’s been 18 months since workers began rebuilding the Watrous Canal in the Westshore area of Tampa to prevent flooding, and neighbors are now wondering when the $4.7 million project that You Paid For is going to end.

Construction crews spent Wednesday removing temporary coffer dams near Westshore Boulevard so that rain water from a storm front rolling in from the Gulf of Mexico would be able to flow into nearby Tampa Bay instead of the Tampa neighborhood streets and homes that surround the canal.

Back in March, 8 on Your Side reported that completion of the drainage project was eight months overdue and 50 percent over budget. Two months later It’s still torn up and neighbors are getting impatient.

“It looks like a war zone, it looks like Syria,” said Frank Perez.

Tampa Public Works Director Brad Baird told us in March the project has been hampered by unexpected soil issues, design changes, limited access to the construction site and a subcontractor that had to be fired from the project.

One of those bumps along the way impacted the property of homeowner Shawn Davidson, who said the new seawall adjacent to his property carved a big chunk out of his yard. “We actually lost five and a half feet of our back yard,” Davidson said.

Watrous Canal now

The Watrous Canal divides a neighborhood where homes line most of the seawall-lined channel as it directs storm water out of surrounding streets and into Tampa Bay. The impetus for the project came after torrential rains left much of South Tampa underwater a few years ago and city leaders vowed to take measures to prevent a repeat of that crisis.

Now, with seasonal storms starting to roll in Wednesday and summer rains upon us, there is growing concern about a timely completion of the multi-million project. Although there is still a month or more of work left, City of Tampa Contracts Administrator Mike Chucran said the canal is ready to handle any water storms send its way to keep the neighborhood from flooding, like a few years back during Tropical Storm Colin.

“It’s operational now. It can handle the capacity it was designed for,” Chucran said.

At one point last year, construction crews temporarily blocked the canal to perform some of the seawall work and excavation, and a storm ended up flooding the home of 95-year-old Barbara Davidson, no relation to Shawn.

Wednesday, Davidson showed us that the stretch of Watrous Canal running behind her home is finally finished after many months of noise and aggravation and the flood that forced her to move out of her home for a time last year.

“I’m happy,” Davidson said.”It was a long wait.”

Eight on Your Side is looking into what’s holding up the work and we’ll have some answers in our You Paid For It report tonight at six.
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