U.S. Army Corps of Engineers budgets final $12 million to complete Wares Creek project

skennedy@bradenton.comApril 19, 2013 

MANATEE -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has budgeted a final $12 million to complete work on the Wares Creek flood control project, officials said Friday.

Two years ago, Corps officials calculated that $10 million more in construction costs would be needed to complete all phases of the project, according to Charlie Hunsicker, Manatee County natural resources director.

"We were informed that, until additional fundingwas secured, future phases of construction beyondthe widening of the creek through the Bradenton Tropical Palms Trailer Parkwould not move forward," Hunsicker wrote in anemail to county commissioners.

The funding shortage has since grown to $12 million, Hunsicker said in a later interview.

"Everyone thought we could complete the work for $41 million or $42 million, but it turned out another $12 million would be needed," he explained.

"The Corps recognized there needed to be an increase in budgets to address an increase in forecasted costs," he added.

Since 2000, money has been set aside for most of the project; the additional $12 million will constitute the final amount to finish it, Hunsicker said.

It will be applied to the widening of a section of the creek between 30th Avenue and Cortez Road, he said.

The county's "targeted outreach" -- with the aidof key congressional officials, plus a trip to Washington, D.C., by Manatee County Commissioners Larry Bustle and Vanessa Baugh -- highlightedthe importance of thecounty's budget request, Hunsicker wrote in the email.

Bustle said he thought those he met with on his trip to Washington had made a difference.

They included U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida;U.S. Reps. Vern Buchanan and John Mica, both R-Florida, and members of the House's water resources staff.

"I'm pleased to be asmall part of the team, working with Florida senatorsto secure federal funding for the Wares Creek project," said Buchanan, of Sarasota.

"This is a great investment of taxpayer dollars in the local community," Buchanan said.

"By preventing flooding, this project will save millions of dollars in damages, and improve the quality of life for area residents who have experienced hardship in the past."

Nelson said, "I've letthe Army Corps know this an important flood protection project, and I'll con-tinue working to make sure it gets the funding it needs for completion."

Bustle called it "a great project for Manatee and Bradenton."

The appearance of a local delegation in Washington had a positive effect, Hunsicker said.

"The Corps understands that this is a project that would be left undone, with promises and economic benefits unfulfilled," Hunsicker said.

His view was seconded by Nick Azzara, county information outreach coordinator.

"It speaks to the ability of our team to illustrate the importance and thevalue of the project, the downtown, and the core of Bradenton," said Azzara, noting that therewere many competingprojects.

In January 2012, dredging began on the Cedar Hammock-Wares Creek Flood Control project near where Manatee Avenue crosses the creek in downtown Bradenton.

At a cost of about $5million, the first phaseentailed dredging of37,000 cubic yards of material from the creek's channel.

It was designed to clear out sediment and to deepen the creek from the Manatee Avenue Bridge to the Ninth Avenue Bridge. Dredging wrapped up last summer.

Wares Creek begins almost at State Road 70 and flows north through Bradenton, emptying into the Manatee River.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow heron Twitter @sarawrites.com.

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