TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The City of Tampa is working with community members in Palmetto Beach to create climate-ready infrastructure improvements with a new coastal design grant.

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation provided the city with a $200,000 grant for research.

“It’s a really exciting grant that we’ve been eying for several years to help bring coastal resilience solutions to this community,” Tampa’s Sustainability and Resilience Officer Whit Remer said.

An interdisciplinary team of engineers, scientists and designers are developing “conceptual coastal resilience plans” that will work to provide protection from storms, improve water quality, increase marine habitats and add aesthetic value to the area.

Remer said the study is going to last a little more than a year. They will be taking water samples, speaking to those in the community and understanding how the seawall might be reimagined and repaired to help provide additional support to the community.

The City of Tampa is interested in the project as a pilot to establish a design process for near and off-shore nature-based risk mitigation strategies in urbanized areas. The city said possible measure include additional living shorelines, breakwaters, longshore bars, enhanced seawalls and onshore green infrastructure.

Living shorelines use plants and other natural elements to stabilize estuarine coasts, bays and tributaries. They provide habitats for marine life and improve water quality and shore nutrients.

It’s an initiative under the Resilient Tampa Program, in the Resilient Tampa Roadmap released a year ago, designed to “make Tampa stronger in the face of current and future challenges.”

“We see cities not only around Florida, but really around the entire US rethinking their entire relationship with their coastline, understanding how they can better live with water and doing so in a way that not only benefits and protects the community, but also can provide enhancements around coastal ecosystems for our marine wildlife, for our bird species,” said Remer.  

The $200,000 grant is not meant for construction; it’s a community engagement and design grant.

Remer said there is state and federal money available for construction on these resiliency projects, including through Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “Resilient Florida Program.”

“Once we complete this study, we can take that to our federal partners at NOAA or at FEMA or at Housing and Urban Development, or up at the state in Tallahassee for the Resilient Florida Program and ask for additional implementation funding,” Remer said.  

The City of Tampa is assessing other seawalls managed by the city that could also be transformed into living shorelines.

“So we’re not only looking at Palmetto Beach, we’re looking at these types of solutions over in Picnic Island, with our partners at MacDill Air Force Base, along Bayshore Avenue and even inland,” Remer said. “In a couple weeks, we’re going to be talking about a really cool storm water project we’re doing near the University of South Florida.” 

The project team includes not only the City of Tampa, but the University of South Florida, Tampa Bay Watch, Tampa Bay Estuary Program, Applied Sciences Consulting Inc. and other members of the community.