The C.W. Bill Young Regional Reservoir located in Lithia is now being emptied ahead of a major and permanent repair of the cracks in the reservoir’s wall as well as a three billion gallon expansion even as legal battle continues between Tampa Bay Water and HDR engineering.

The 15.5 billion-gallon capacity C.W. Bill Young Regional Reservoir in Lithia, has once again managed to take center stage, as the legal battle between Tampa Bay Water and  HDR Engineering reached a courtroom showdown in connection with the necessary repairs and subsequent cost of the cracks in the Reservoir’s walls.                                                                                                              

Tampa Bay Water filed a lawsuit last year against HDR, seeking more than $100 million to repair the reservoir, but a recent decision by a federal jury in favor of the design firm sent the nine-member TBW board, among them Hillsborough County Commissioners Sandra L. Murman and Mark Sharpe, to hold a meeting behind closed doors to see what to do next and how to pursue the case. 

Last year, a $30-million mediator-initiated settlement offer by HDR was rejected by the utilities board, announcing that the amount did not represent a good deal for ratepayers.”

HDR attorney Wayne Mason reportedly said that with the exception of some cracking, the reservoir was working as designed, and that the cracks that first appeared shortly after the facility became operational in 2006, were construction, not design, flaws.

However, the jury decided that the firm did not breach standards by defectively designing the $146 million reservoir, which stores water from the Tampa Bypass Canal and the Alafia and Hillsborough rivers.

As part of a temporary repair project, TBW repaired the cracks in the reservoir’s walls last year, but according to Tampa bay Water engineer Jonathan Kennedy the underlying problem still exists.

Kennedy emphasized that a permanent fix involves a 2-year, $125 million construction project, which he said is now planned to start in September, 2012 and, will require a full water draw down. 

“We are currently emptying the reservoir, which is now at twenty-five percent capacity and once empty, a full repair and a three billion-gallon reservoir expansion by Kiewit Construction will begin,” Kennedy said. “We will remove all eighty acres of the reservoir’s lining and replace it with a new one.” The project is planned to be completed by November 2014.

Water spokesperson Brandon Moore said the agency has incurred more than $10 million in legal fees.

“Rate pays will be affected,” Moore said. “We are looking at an increase of about 10-15 cents per 1,000 gallons, which for an average home that uses approximately 8,000 gallons of water per month will mean between $0.80-1.20 per month,” Moore said. “This estimate also takes into account other projects as well, some of which are already taking place.”

TBW delivers water to more than 2.3 million people in the Tampa Bay area including Hillsborough County, Pasco County, Pinellas County, New Port Richey, St. Petersburg and Tampa.

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