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Date of Issue: January 25, 2007

So what's down there?

Moving about as slowly as the canals are silting, Bradenton Beach officials appear to be oozing their way toward dredging the city’s two canals.

The bayside canals, both in the 2100 block off Avenue A, have been slowly and consistently filling with silt since the last dredging in the late 1960s. Residents have complained of lack of navigation and odor from the sediment-filled canals for years.

And it’s taken years to work through the process to dredge the pair of basins. The canals boast 11 homes, as well as a strip of mangroves along the southernmost canal that borders Runaway Bay condominiums, but is not owned by the condos.

According to Walter Smith of Lynn Townsend and Associates Engineering, which is doing the specifications on the project, dredging will scour out a channel in the middle of the canals about 3 feet in width, which should protect the seawalls and any marine life growing on the sides of the canals. The length of the channel will depend on the scope of work the as-yet-undetermined contractor quotes for the project. Funding for the dredging, $88,000, has been earmarked through a grant from the West Coast Inland Navigation District.

However, the exact composition of the material that fills the canals is in question, which was in fact the question city commissioners pondered last week in the face of an additional $6,500 expense for borings samples of the muck.

After much discussion, it was determined that the geo-technical services of a contractor should be attained to attack the muck and find out if it is harmful, harmless or simply smelly. The results are expected in about three months and, if city approval is granted, dredging could commence by September.

Another aspect commissioners need to slide through on the project is what to do with and where to put the dredge material. Smith estimated 2,200 cubic yards of spoil needs to be drained and dried somewhere. Original proposals called for the material to be stockpiled at Herb Dolan North Park, but the quantity is such that the park site is too small for the muck.

Current plans include barging the spoil to northern Coquina Beach on the bayside, where it is hoped it could be used as fill for a long-standing sought-after park-and-ride lot for motorists who want to utilize the trolley, or for workers in the city.