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Date of Issue: December 15, 2005

Old junk slows Cortez dredge job

Thick layers of junk, some of it decades old, have slowed dredging of the boat channel along the Cortez waterfront.

The trash is so thick and some of it so heavy that heavy equipment must be brought in to dig it out, said Charles Listowski, executive director of the West Coast Inland Navigation District, which is handling the dredging project for Manatee County.

"We've already dug into propane tanks, and one of them had gas in it," he said. "That could have been disastrous, at least for the equipment operator. We caught it in time, but it shows what we're up against."

The work is in the FISH Preserve, the large wooded area at the east end of the historic fishing village which has been abused for many years by people dumping there. The Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage is providing space in its Preserve where the spoil dredged from the channel will be pumped, dried and eventually hauled to a landfill or, if it is clean enough, spread in the Preserve.

Already cleared out are a number of derelict boats and a large rusted-out steel barge that have been there for decades. Under way now is clearing a roadway for the big pipes from the dredge to the spoil site, and a site where the dredge itself will be located. Next will come clearing of the spoil site.

The dredging equipment will be moved to its pumping site in about a month, Listowski said. That's somewhat later than originally planned, but "We're not really off the schedule. We just ran into some things we hadn't expected. We're used to that, it happens on every job."

Cost is estimated at $325,000, which had been set aside for the job some time ago but had to await WCIND's availability.

County Commissioner Jane von Hahmann, who lives in Cortez and has pressed for the dredging for at least four years, said dredging at the Crosley Estate and the Palma Sola San Remo channel had to be completed first. That will be done about the time the Cortez project is ready for the dredge, Listowski said.

When the work is finished the channel will be 7 feet deep at mean low water, 30 feet wide and dredged for 1,500 feet. That's most of the channel, which runs from the A.P. Bell Fish Co. to Cortez Bait & Seafood Co.