ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — St. Pete Beach city leaders recently heard costly concepts from their consultants on how to protect the Don CeSar neighborhood from sea level rise and tidal flooding.

What You Need To Know

  • Sea level rise and tidal flooding a problem in the Don CeSar neighborhood

  • City leaders say the neighborhood is "most at risk"

  • Consultants say it would cost around $25 million to protect the neighborhood from sea level rise for 30 to 40 years

  • According to a 2020 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers report, water levels in Tampa Bay have risen nearly 7 inches since 1992

"The neighborhood that is most at risk in the city is the Don CeSar neighborhood," said City Manager Alex Rey. "We don't have enough time to sit on it and don't do anything about it." 

The neighborhood is located on a peninsula that's bounded by the Pinellas Bayway, Gulf Boulevard and McPherson Bayou. It's the lowest lying area in St. Pete Beach. 

During a meeting last month, City Commissioner Ward Friszolowski said the Don CeSar neighborhood is in a bowl, much like a mini New Orleans.

"I know we can't turn back time, obviously, but you know this neighborhood was created 100 years ago," he said. "It would've been a whole lot cheaper if they would've come in with a foot or two more fills." ​

At the September 15 meeting, HALFF consultants told city leaders it would cost more than $18 million to protect the neighborhood from sea level rise for 30-to-40 years.

"Construction cost only," said Phillip Keyes, HALFF Project Manager. "It gives you... an idea of what really, what this sea level rise means from an economic standpoint." ​

City Manager Rey said by the time you add in other costs the number will grow to $25 million. 

The preliminary concepts presented to city commissioners to keep the saltwater from flooding the streets daily include raising the seawalls two-and-a half feet, raising some of the roads and turning them into wide one-lane streets. That would leave room for berms to be built along with other green engineering.

The consultants also advised directing floodwater to Lazarillo Park, where the tennis courts will be turned into a retention pond and the water can be pumped back into the Bay.

Mayor Al Johnson said the city is focused on sea level rise because it's a big threat to St. Pete Beach.

"Obviously, it's huge," he said. "We're basically living on a sandbar." 

Mayor Johnson said the city is already in the process of doing some of the other recommendations such as installing one way valves in storm drains and plugging up the open spillways along the road.

"If we do it in piecemeal steps going forward," he said. "Like we're doing now, I think that's the right way to do it." 

City leaders said it's going to take several years along with a state-federal-and-private partnership to complete the concept. Some residents say the problem has been exacerbated by a lack of infrastructure and want to see improvements done sooner.

"It's something that has to be done. It's definitely not happening fast enough," said resident Cameron Mazoochi, 41. 

"We need to work together on this. We're all in it together in this neighborhood." 

According to a 2020 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers report, water levels in Tampa Bay have risen nearly 7 inches since 1992. 

"The sea levels are indeed rising," said Azad Shaw, Madrid CPWG consultant. "They're not only rising but they're rising at an accelerated rate."

Sea level rise is one of the most severe impacts of climate change, according to scientists. The Tampa Bay Climate Science Advisory panel projects by 2050, intermediate sea level rise will go up by 1 foot.

"You always wondered global warming and tides rising and is it true?" said Mazoochi. "It seems like you just have hard facts. I think this is proof. Why else would the water be here, up so high, on a regular basis now?"

City leaders plan to get resident feedback on the concept plan during a meeting at the rec center on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m.