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Wares Creek dredging project gets state permit

BRADENTON — After more than 25 years of working through the system, the Wares Creek dredging project should soon become a reality.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection issued a environmental resources permit Thursday to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which can now begin the bidding process for a contractor.

“Nothing can stop the project from starting by the first of the year,” Bradenton City Councilman Patrick Roff said Monday.

“We have the DEP permit, we have the money, we have the (dredge material) site.”

For years, Roff has actively pursued the permit and funding from the government agencies involved in the project. His campaign for the Ward 3 seat three years ago focused on seeing the dredging through to completion.

The permit outlines in detail what the Corps and Manatee County have to do to comply with the environmental codes of the federal and state governments.

The dredging project along the approximate four-mile creek, which starts near De Soto Square mall and ends at the Manatee River near 15th Street West, will cost about $18 million to $22 million.

The project requires dredging about 200,000 yards of mud and muck, mainly near the mouth of the creek, widening some areas and reconstruction of seawalls.

The dredged sediment will be stored and dried on the site of the former Bradenton City Hall, which the Manatee County Commission approved for purchase, then trucked to the Lena Road landfill in East Manatee.

Pamala Vazquez, spokeswoman for the DEP Southwest District office in Tampa, said the process is extensive and time-consuming, but the Corps can now move ahead with permit in hand.

“The permitting process is very important to get the answers to all the questions and make sure the project follows all the state rules and regulations,” Vazquez said Monday.

She said the DEP issued the permit because it was confident the Corps, the county and the city would be able to complete the work within the rules and regulations.

Roff said before the dredging can start, there are several more steps the Corps needs to do.

There are the cooperative agreements to be signed, detailed plans to be drawn up, specifications to be outlined, contractual administration details, the bidding and awarding of a work contract.

Charlie Hunsicker, director of the county natural resources department, said Monday the permit was a significant step in the process.

“This advances the project through yet another hurdle,” said Hunsicker, who has been instrumental in shepherding the project through the inter-governmental process.

He said the cooperative agreement between the Corps and the county is now working its way through the various county departments and should come before the commission for approval by the first meeting in June.

Carl Mario Nudi, Herald reporter, can be reached at 745-7027.