By Tamas Mondovics

The news about the upcoming repair of and the subsequent installation of a number of emergency sirens at the 750-acre Edward Medard Park Reservoir had some residents wonder about the true condition of their water supply and perhaps favorite fishing spot.

But that is just the news residents living nearby or downstream from the reservoir have recently received, notifying them of the possibility that their property could be affected in the event of an emergency at the reservoir.

The good news is that according to Jeff Hagberg, Swiftmud (Southwest Florida Water Management District) field operations manager there is nothing to worry about in connection with the reservoir.

“The reservoir is in good shape and it is safe,” Hagberg said. “The upcoming embankment repair is a major $2.3 million construction project scheduled to begin early next year, but is a part of an annual preventive maintenance to avoid a possible catastrophic event.”

Hagberg explained that over the course of time erosion undermines the concrete rip-rap bags that make up the embankment and repair is unavoidable.

Besides the emergency spillway renovation in 2004, Hagberg said no major construction took place at the Medard Reservoir.

“The bad news however, is that the repair will lower the water level at the reservoir to about 150-acres, which will affect the local fishing,” Hagberg said but added that the process and the timing of the project will actually boost the park’s ecosystem.

The recent installation of the three emergency notification sirens downstream of the reservoir is just another safety measure in line with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) dam safety guidelines, which provides guidance to District staff and other emergency officials in the event of an emergency situation at the dam.

But, Swiftmud staff engineer Lesley Touchtone said that the sirens are designed to be outdoor warning systems that may not be heard indoors.

“A warning sign is installed on each siren pole,” she said. “To ensure these sirens perform properly, audible testing will occur on the first Saturday of each month at noon beginning in October. During testing, the sirens will sound for about 15 seconds.”

Touchtone said that in the case of a real emergency at the dam, the sirens would be activated with alternating intervals of three minutes of sound followed by three minutes of silence.

“This would continue until the conclusion of the emergency situation,” she said.

Public meetings to discuss the siren system and its operation have been scheduled for Tuesday, September 22, 2009 at 6:00–7:30 p.m., at the Florida Farm Bureau Office located at 100 S. Mulrennan Road and on Wednesday, September 23, 2009, from 6:00–7:30 p.m., at the Bloomingdale Public Library located at 1906 Bloomingdale Avenue in Valrico.

Both the District and Hillsborough County staff will be available to answer questions as citizens will be able, on an individual basis, to locate their residence on large display maps and discuss with District and County staff their vulnerability.

For more information about the construction and the sirens in connection with the Medard Park Reservoir please visit.

Photo: Medard Reservoir

Cutline: Plant City resident Cesar Medrano casts his fishing net into the 700-acre Edward Medard reservoir, which is scheduled for embankment repair work that will lower the water levels and affect fishing. The 1,281 acre park hosts close to 500,000 visitors annually and features fishing, camping, swimming and picnicking.

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