TAMPA, Fla. - Mahaffey Theatre. Salvador Dali Museum. Davis Islands.

They all sit on dredged land.

"Dredge and fill" is when mud and weeds from an open waterway are used to extend land.

The Hillsborough County Planning Commission recently approved a project north of Rocky Point Drive that would utilize the practice, a first for the county in decades.

Developers want to fill 3 acres of open water to build 16 townhomes near the eastern end of the Courtney Campbell Causeway.

But the project isn't a complete go yet. It has to be approved by the Tampa City Council.

Growth vs. Nature

The practice hasn't been used since the 1970s as strict regulations were put in place to protect marine life.

Those who live and work near Rocky Point are opposed to adding additional land. They're paying for a waterfront view, not more buildings, they said.

“I think it would be detrimental to take away this landscape. You don't get many with all the building going up around here,” says Ty George, who lives near the area.

But the New York-based developer wants to create more homes as Tampa's population is expected to grow.

Dredging is important to help maintain shipping channels but it damaged Tampa Bay's ecosystem when the practice was popular in the early 1900s, said Maya Burke with the Tampa Bay Estuary Program.

“Fish weren't as abundant, the sea grasses weren't present at historic levels and the water was cloudy from being stirred up by all the digging,” she said.

Burke hasn't seen a dredging project break ground in Tampa bay in recent years but warns there are risks when living on the water.

“People have to make the individual decision, what is it worth to live with these kinds of views versus what the risk is to their health and safety due to things like sea level rise and storm surge,” she said.

Project approval, which requires support from several government agencies, could take years.

The Tampa City Council will consider the project during their June 28 meeting.

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