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A $36.6M bond will establish green infrastructure initiatives in Tampa

The El Prado Stormwater Garden in Tampa.
City of Tampa
City of Tampa
El Prado storm garden at El Prado and Manhattan in Tampa. While this site was not paid for with the current green bond, it's an example of something that will be built with it.

The green bond will help Tampa tackle the problems that arise from inland flooding.

The city of Tampa has issued a $36.6 million certified green bond for long-term stormwater and resilience projects.

A green bond is a fixed-income instrument designed to specifically support large scale flood control and climate-related, environmental projects.

Whit Remer, Tampa’s Sustainability and Resilience Officer, said that this particular bond will be directed towards projects in the city’s central and lower basins.

“So that's kind of running up the center of the city, all the way down to South Tampa,” said Remer. “And it will be first and foremost used to help alleviate flooding.”

The city plans to use the funds to treat, minimize and manage flooding using green infrastructure.

Some of these projects include rain gardens, permeable pavement, and bioswales — landscaped depressions that catch stormwater runoff.

Remer said that such green infrastructure has environmental benefits.

“What (the projects) can allow us to do is plant trees, which can sequester carbon, but can also filter rainwater, and make sure that we're not discharging nutrients into the bay, which ultimately can fuel things like red tide,” said Remer.

Permeable pavement — also known as pervious pavement — allows rain to seep through the surface of the pavement and filter out pollutants that contribute to water pollution; while shrubs, perennials, and flowers that normally make up rain gardens can remove nutrients and chemicals that contribute to water pollution.

Maya Trotz is a professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of South Florida and a member of Tampa Mayor Jane Castor’s Sustainability and Resilience Advisory Team.

She said that projects like rain gardens can help solve the problem of algae growth.

“We don't want too much of that because when algae die, they consume oxygen. The oxygen that will deplete and have a lot of fish kills,” said Trotz. “So lots of investment in things that can reduce nitrogen load.”

Trotz emphasized that Florida needs the funding for water infrastructure as the state experiences challenges like climate change, sea level rise, and rainfall that is increasing in both volume and intensity.

“Hopefully, the green bond initiative and the investments that come there helps to raise our awareness of our vulnerabilities, but also gives us hope in terms of things that could be done to make us more resilient.”

The green bond is part of Castor’s Transforming Tampa's Tomorrow vision and her Resilient Tampa Roadmap, which target issues from poverty to climate change.

Remer said the bond fits within that framework because Castor sees sustainability and resilience as the underpinning of everything that is done here at the city.

He added that whatever the project is, the city wants to make sure that they’re maximizing their sustainability and resilience value.

“And ultimately, that just means that we're being good citizens of the earth and taking care of the people and planet around us.”

Christina Loizou is a WUSF Rush Family/USF Zimmerman School Digital News intern for the fall of 2021, her second semester with WUSF.