Felled trees pose a hazard on the River

SEMINOLE HEIGHTS — It was worrisome from the beginning: two men in a small boat and a storm-tossed tree snagged on bridge pilings in murky water. Now Thomas Jones worries that boaters and kayakers should keep a sharp lookout for three runaway logs on the Hillsborough River. They could be adrift somewhere west of the Nebraska Avenue bridge that spans the river at the border between Seminole Heights and Sulphur Springs.

“It certainly is a hazard to navigation,” said Jones, who has lived on the river for 30 years. “They took a minor situation that could have been cured and turned it into a danger.” The tree, which stretched maybe 40 feet long – Jones thinks it was a cypress – landed under the bridge weeks ago after a violent storm tore through Seminole Heights and surrounding neighborhoods. A few days ago, Jones saw workers trimming branches. They came back Thursday in a 12-foot boat to finish the job. “I was not impressed with the equipment they had and was seriously concerned they were going to lose control. The tide was very fast,” Jones said.

River_floatingtreeswaterhazard“I don’t think they realized how strong it (the current) was,” said Florida Department of Transportation spokeswoman Kris Carson. State highway officials who hired Infrastructure Corporation of America to pull the tree to shore and haul it off say the situation isn’t so dire. One large log that broke free washed ashore about 100 yards from the bridge. ICA workers were told to remove it by today.

After Jones’ complaints, one worker phoned Greg Deese, an FDOT structures maintenance engineer who visited the site Thursday. He spoke by phone with Jones and left. Carson said Deese told the men, “We need a bigger boat.” One hour later, Jones saw a log going down the river. “These guys were paddling like hell to try and catch it,” he said.

By KATHY STEELE | The Tampa Tribune | Published: September 21, 2012