BRADENTON – Manatee County officials announced at a press conference Friday afternoon that a plan is underway to repair damage around the Lake Manatee dam. Routine testing of the 50-year-old dam revealed some areas of concern and a private consultant contracted by the county has determined that erosion has created a scenario in which a four or five-day rain could compromise parts of the dam, putting downriver homes at risk of flood.
The dam, which is a primary water-supply system for Manatee residents, sits about 8 miles east of Interstate 75, in a rural swath of the county. Water Treatment Plant Superintendent Bruce MacLeod explained that while there is no immediate crisis, a compromise to the clay core water-stop barrier could, under very heavy rains, lead to a failure.
The plan is to take the water levels down two feet on the backside of the dam where the impacted areas are, in order to avoid having to release large quantities of water in a heavy rains. They will then use front-end loaders to remove earthen plugs and relieve any backside pressure through alternate routes while repairs are being made.
MacLeod said that the county was fortunate to have discovered the issues during the dry season, as this is a relatively quick fix that they believe will push the dam's service period out another 50 years. The county notified the 18 property owners in the immediate area on Friday. There are no special precautions for residents along the Manatee River at this time.
Engineers are on-site now and will work through the weekend and then continue to identify critical areas next week. It is estimated that those areas will take 30-45 days to address, with the entire project completed in about 60-70 days.
In terms of cost, MacLeod said that obviously much will be determined by what is found over that initial identification of critical areas, but that rough, ball-park estimates in the $3-$6 million range have been given to the county.
Deputy County Administrator Karen Windon echoed MacLeod's appraisal that there was no reason for panic.
"As Bruce said, there is no crisis at this time," stressed Windon. "Right now, we want to get the information out to the community."
Windon explained that residents could could sign up for emergency alerts at the county's website at www.mymanatee.org/alert, so that they can be contacted should an event occur, along with instructions on how to proceed.
|Aerial view of Lake Manatee from NOAA|
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