Manatee approves emergency repairs to dam

Bradenton, Florida - Manatee County Commissioners approved emergency repairs to the Little Manatee Dam, just in time for the rainy season. Engineers warned in February that erosion problems threaten the dam's stability.

Mark Stukey has lived along the Manatee River downstream from the Little Manatee dam for 11 years, running Ray's Canoe Hideaway. "I've seen a lot of water come out of there. I've been flooded several times," says Mark.

Mark says his backyard flooded in June of 2003 when all three gates to the dam were opened. When news broke the dam has an erosion problem that could threaten neighborhoods, Mark didn't worry.

He says, "As soon as they found out, I knew they'd correct it."

During a land use meeting, engineers told Manatee County Commissioners that core testing showed the problem runs deeper than first expected.

"One hundred feet deeper than the surface of the dam," says Mark Simpson, Water Division Manager of Utilities for Manatee County.

Engineers say stabilizing the erosion and water seepage requires building a cutoff wall of overlapping columns made of clay and cement. The columns will run below the dam's surface, stretching 3,400 feet across the center of the lake and 105 feet deep.

"We're going to get this done. This is our drinking water," says Vanessa Baugh, Manatee County Commissioner.

Utility officials say the lake flows into a water treatment plant that supplies drinking water to 300,000 residents in Manatee and Sarasota residents.

Work on the first half of Phase 1 starts Monday and will be completed by June 1, in time for the hurricane season. The second half of Phase 1 will be done by October 31. The cost: $14.8 million.

The details and cost for Phase 2 have yet to be determined.

Simpson assures commissioners the work will last a long time. "We're going to extend the life of the cutoff wall and seepage control another 50 years."

That's a good thing, because Mark plans on staying put along the river.

"I love it here, my wife loves it here. and we're gonna keep our roots planted right here."


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