BRADENTON -- After decades of frustration and waiting, dredging finally began Monday in Wares Creek.
The drone of mechanical equipment drifted over the sleepy urban neighborhood around the creek as a 32-foot dredge began its work, part of the first phase of a $51.8 million Cedar Hammock-Wares Creek Flood Control project.
Engineers spent much of the day testing equipment, and they expected the dredging operation to ramp up over several days as they assess how well their systems perform, according to Glenn Wood, the contractor quality control manager for TransWest Manufacturing, LLC.
A lot adjacent to the dredge bristled with heavy equipment designed to process sediment dredged from the creek.
“We want absolutely clean, pristine water,” explained Wood during a quick tour Monday morning of the processing site, the former Bradenton City Hall block at 15th Street West and Manatee Avenue. “That’s what this all does.”
Among the equipment handling sediment are huge hydrocyclones, which take most of the material from the creek and shake it through very fine screens to separate solids from water, said Wood.
When the system is fully operating, the sand will be loaded onto dump trucks and hauled to the Lena Road Landfill, while water extracted from it will be returned to the creek via pipelines that crisscross the lot.
The dewatering operation is designed to process 1.7 million gallons of water a day from the creek, Wood said.
The finest silt gets special treatment in four clarifier tanks: Heavier sediment drops from the water to the bottom of the tanks, where it is collected, Wood said.
When material comes out of the clarifiers, it goes into sausage-like bags called geotextile dewatering tubes that leach water away and retain very fine silt, which is then disposed of, he said.
The point of all the equipment is to ensure that dredged liquid meets strict water-quality guidelines when it goes back into the creek, he said.
Work is slated to continue from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., six days a week, said Wood.
Among 12 crew members working at the site are those who chemically test the water to ensure it meets strict standards; a look-out for manatees swimming in the channel, and engineers to supervise the pumping and disposal operation, Wood said.
Another 15 or so workers will be added to remove a mangrove island that has grown up in the middle of the creek bed. Workers will use chain saws, stump grinders and wood chippers to clear the mangroves away, Wood said.
The plants need to be removed so the dredge can then deepen the channel, and the removal should take a month to six weeks, Wood said.
The whole project calls for 37,000 cubic yards of material to be dredged from the channel.
Phase 1, at a cost of $3.5 million, is designed to clear out sediment and to deepen the creek from the Manatee Avenue Bridge to the Ninth Avenue Bridge.
Future phases will entail widening the creek from 17th Avenue West south to Cortez Road, with the total project length reaching almost 5 miles, officials have said.
Wares Creek begins almost at State Road 70 and flows north through Bradenton, emptying into the Manatee River.