BRADENTON -- Amid news that dredging on Wares Creek is done -- an initial phase of a $51.8 million flood control project -- area residents say they are grateful, that it is about time, but there's still more that should be done.
"At this point we don't see much of them at all," said Bruce Schmeichel, 74, who lives at DeSoto Towers, an apartment complex on Sixth Avenue West overlooking the creek. "They've been very easy to work with. ... I'm looking forward to the next part of it."
The purpose and plan for the Cedar Hammock-Wares Creek flood control project is "to reduce the frequency and severity" of flooding in neighborhoods along Wares Creek, said Charlie Hunsicker, Manatee County's director of natural resources.
The first phase of the project included dredging from the Manatee Avenue bridge to the Ninth Avenue West bridge. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced this week that dredging was finished after about six months of work, as reported Thursday by the Herald.
"I don't think they dredged enough," said Chad Collier, who lives on Seventh Avenue West right next to Wares Creek.
Along some areas of the creek, the dredger did not go close enough to the seawalls to remove sediment there, Collier contended.
"They never came close to the dock, they stayed 25 to 30 feet away from the dock," said Collier, 28, pointing to mud near his dock and to a pipe in the water seemingly creating a barrier between the dock and the rest of the creek.
"I think they need to finish what they started," he said.
Hunsicker said that dredging too close to the docks could compromise their safety.
"We weren't going to challenge the integrity, we exercise caution wherever we are dredging," Hunsicker said. "If you take mud away, sometimes they fall in."
The docks are privately owned and dredging too close around them would be an example of a public project "providing unique and singular private party benefit at taxpayers' expenditure," Hunsicker added.
The project "will solve Wares Creek problems for minor storms," Hunsicker
said. But, he noted, this type of project will "not eliminate the chance of any flooding ever occurring again."
The amount of money spent on the project resembles the amount of flood control; if absolute flood elimination was the goal, the county would have had to purchase hundreds of properties, Hunsicker said.
If houses flooded before, now the water would possibly only reach the yard; if the yard flooded before, now it would probably only reach the curb, he said.
Sharon Sandifar, a DeSoto Towers resident, said that after the dredging near her residence, more fish and manatees seemed to be swimming in the area.
Geobags containing the dredged sediment lay near Manatee Avenue West and are visible from the DeSoto Towers complex. Those bags will remain on site for three or four more weeks as the material dries out, according to a Corps spokeswoman.
Sandifar noticed a foul smell whenever the dirt was removed from the bags and placed in trucks to be hauled away to a landfill. That smell and all the pipes in the creek were something that will now "be nice to get rid of," she said.
"This should've been done 40 years ago," Sandifar said. "I've lived here since the 1960s -- this needed to be done a long time ago."
The next phase, "Phase III A," consists of seawall widening and retaining wall construction from 21st Avenue West to 30th Avenue West. Phase II will be the clearing and snagging of vegetation between Ninth Avenue West and 17th Avenue West. Phase III A is expected to start January 2013, before Phase II.
Miriam Valverde, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024. Follow her on Twitter @MiriamValverde.