BRADENTON -- A crowd of about 70 turned out Tuesday night to hear a presentation on the Wares Creek project, which has been decades in the making.
The presentation included the creek’s history, dating back more than 100 years, when Cedar Hammock was a marshland with three little outlets, one of which was Wares Creek.
A slideshow of its repeated overflows illustrated why flood reduction measures are needed; there were details of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plan to dredge part of it, clear away debris in its channel and widen it; and even a gracious “thank you” to the public.
“This meeting is a meeting of thanks, of sorts, to the many residents who have patiently waited for a solution to their flooding problems on Wares Creek,” explained county Natural Resources Director Charlie Hunsicker, who recalled the project’s origins in the late 1970s or early 1980s.
With the Nov. 14 ground breaking only a couple of weeks away, officials provided a time line of the Corps’ work schedule: Phase I dredging slated for 2011-12, Phase II widening slated for 2012-13 and Phase III widening set for 2013-14.
The total cost is $51,735,933, according to Hunsicker. It is primarily paid for by the federal government through the Corps, but with other contributors -- the Florida Legislature, Manatee County, the city of Bradenton and the Southwest Florida Water Management District.
“This community should feel very, very proud of where we are today,” said Corps Senior Project Manager Emilio González, who said Wares Creek has been his main project now for 12 years.
“It means something to me,” he added.
After the presentation, citizens sitting in the Ballard Elementary auditorium got to ask questions.
One citizen asked whether the Corps intended to dredge at the creek’s mouth, from the Manatee Avenue Bridge to the Manatee River. The answer was no, because it is not included in the scope of the project, officials said.
Paul DeMariano, an Ellenton contractor, wondered why a company called TransWest Dredge, of Richmond, Utah, was hired for the dredging instead of a local firm.
González replied that regular procurement methods would have taken too long, and that the Corps was concerned that if it didn’t get the project started, it could lose the money that had been set aside for it.
However, he assured the audience that local contractors will be considered for other parts of the project yet to be awarded.
Jeff Newhall wanted to know if, once the project is finished, the extensive work to improve the creek will be maintained.
County engineer Sia Mollanazar assured Newhall that the Corps, once the job is complete, will spell out a maintenance program the city and county will carry out “so this devastation won’t happen again.”