BRADENTON -- Dredging of Wares Creek is now complete, according to a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers official.
"Plans to begin demobilizing the equipment will begin immediately," said Amanda Ellison, Corps spokeswoman in the Jacksonville District.
Ellison said workers completed the dredging portion of the $51.8 million Cedar Hammock-Wares Creek flood control project on Tuesday. The large geobags adjacent to the creek that contain sediment from the creek will remain on site along Manatee Avenue for about three or four more weeks as the material dries out, Ellison said.
The project is expected to reduce flooding along Bradenton's Wares Creek.
"Completion of the dredging portion of the project represents the completion of a solid milestone toward flood protection for the residents along Wares Creek," said Charlie Hunsicker, director of natural resources for Manatee County. "My congratulations to the contractor, and the Corps, and the employees at Manatee County's public works engineering division and employees of the Manatee County utilities landfill division."
Dredging started at the beginning of 2012 and was completed in two segments, Ellison said. The first section dredged runs from the Manatee Avenue West bridge to the Seventh Avenue West bridge, and the final dredging area continued from the Seventh Avenue West bridge to the Ninth Avenue West bridge.
Hunsicker called the dredging completion "an important milestone for which many had given up hope of ever accomplishing."
Throughout the course of dredging, changes were made in the type of bags that collected the sediment, and the county agreed to a request to reduce landfill fees for disposal of the material.
Preliminary estimates suggest that about 30,000 cubic yards of material were dredged from the creek, according to Ellison. A final survey to determine the total amount of material dredged and cost adjustments is expected to be completed soon, she said.
Manatee watchers were stationed on site during the dredging process to ensure that the animals swimming in the creek were not harmed, Ellison said. No manatee injuries were reported, she said.
The next phase of the project will consist of channel widening and retaining wall construction, said Barbara Harrison, civil engineer for the Corps.
During that phase, the creek channel will be widened to about 25 feet and made about one foot deeper, according to Harrison. That work will stretch from 21st Avenue West to 30th Avenue West, she said.
"The whole mission is to create a large cross-section so that more water can flow throughout the channel and reduce flooding," Harrison said.
Manatee County and the City of Bradenton have agreed to maintain the creek after the overall project is completed, Hunsicker said. Construction for the next phase -- designated "Phase III A" -- is estimated to cost between $10 million and $25 million, according to Corps documents.
Phase III A is under a bidding process, and potential contractors are scheduled to be on site Aug. 14 to examine the project area. The phase work will also include dewatering, storm drainage modifications, and demolition of existing structures, according to Corps documents. It is expected to be completed within 325 calendar days after the Corps issues a notice to proceed. Construction is slated to begin by January 2013, Harrison said.
A public meeting will be scheduled prior to construction to answer questions from residents. A date for that meeting has not been set.
Miriam Valverde, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024. Follow her on Twitter @MiriamValverde.