For many residents along Ware’s Creek, relief set in when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced in April the $52 million flood mitigation project was complete after years of work.
But some residents say more work is needed to protect their homes.
In a five-block stretch along 21st Street West between 12th and 17th avenues west, the creek was barely touched. It is the same area of the creek that suffered the worst of the flooding during Hurricane Hermine in September.
To the south of 17th Avenue West, the creek’s shorelines were widened and stabilized. The water flows through a high-banked channel capable of holding much more water than when the water rushes under the 17th Avenue bridge. From there, it rushes north toward the Manatee River into a low-banked, largely untouched area of the creek, a choke point during heavy rains that residents say is a perfect model for disaster.
Corps spokeswoman Amanda Parker said in September that the project was never meant to be flood-proof, especially for a rain event like Hermine.
Parker did not return a request for comment and since April has referred all questions to the city and Manatee County officials.
I don’t want the Corps to come back. They’ll only screw it up some more.
Ware’s Creek resident Mary Alta Griffin
Caitlin Blanchard has three young children and moved into her Ware’s Creek home three years ago. She said the banks in the untouched portion of the creek are rapidly eroding and large, towering trees on both sides of the banks have exposed roots, making them vulnerable to falling to over.
“It’s eroded quite a bit, and I have kids playing in the yard,” Blanchard said. “These trees could fall over at any time, and it really is a safety issue. I was under the assumption that this part of the creek would be done, and then all of a sudden the Corps announced it was completed.”
Mary Alta Griffin lives next door to the Blanchards. Griffin said easements up and down the street were purchased from homeowners to stage heavy equipment. Both Blanchard and Griffin said workers came by before the Corps’ announcement to give notice that work would begin soon, but “they never came back,” Griffin said.
I don’t know what their thought process was not to do anything in this area.
Jim McLellan, Bradenton public works director
Jim McLellan, Bradenton public works director, met with the pair earlier this week. The city’s project responsibility was the reconstruction of four bridges, but Bradenton officials had no say in how the Corps went about planning the flood mitigation project.
After meeting with residents and seeing their concerns, McLellan said, “I don’t know what their thought process was not to do anything in this area. It’s sure to be a constant maintenance issue, and we’ll have to take a look at shore stability.”
McLellan said that based on conversations with the Corps and Manatee County, that area of the creek was only scheduled for a “snag and drag” operation to remove invasive species and cut down targeted trees.
McLellan said he remembers the contractor starting the work, “but then left and I don’t recall them coming back.”
Both Griffin and Blanchard said no one ever came through their section of the creek to do anything.
When told the Corps wasn’t likely to come back to accommodate them, Griffin asked, “Is that a promise? I don’t want the Corps to come back. They’ll only screw it up some more.”
McLellan said finding a solution would be tricky.
“Some places intended to have trees removed, but the decision was made that removing the trees would worsen the erosion problem,” he said. “The trick here is going to be finding a solution without creating a problem somewhere else. We’ll have to look at some way to stabilize these banks.”
The city’s maintenance agreement with the Corps for its sections of the creek is to do annual dredging in targeted areas. The city dredged areas near Ninth Avenue West earlier this year and the creek near 12th Avenue West, where sediment is building quickly, is scheduled to be dredged in this fiscal year.