By Tamas Mondovics

During an open house meeting held at Lithia’s Newsome High School cafeteria, Tampa Bay Water and Kiewit Infrastructure South officials announced the dates and details of the upcoming $129 million construction to replace the C.W. Bill Young Regional Reservoir’s cracked erosion-control layer.

“Reservoir renovation construction is scheduled to begin this February and will last approximately two years,” said TBW spokesperson Brandon Moore. “Construction is not expected to affect nearby communities since construction will take place inside the reservoir and on the top of the reservoir berm.”

The 15.5 billion gallon, $146 million regional reservoir has been in service for the Tampa Bay community since 2005 and stores water from the Tampa Bypass Canal and the Alafia and Hillsborough rivers and is designed for use during dry times, making the region’s water supply more drought resistant, reliable and flexible.

However, in 2006, cracks began to form in the facility’s soil-cement erosion control lining, which over time, appeared in several areas, eventually forming on 70 percent of the interior face of the reservoir, prompting the necessary full-scale renovation project with a cost almost as much as it did to build the facility just seven years ago.

In the name of “long-term reliability and performance,” Tampa Bay Water hired Kiewit Infrastructure South to design and build a long-term fix as well as to increase the facility’s storage by three billion gallons.

“Kiewit’s solution involves removing the existing erosion-control layer, adding drains to the facility and coating the reservoir’s interior with thicker, stronger soil cement,” said TBW project manager Jon Kennedy.

“The reservoir is now empty at 75 ft. below and ready for construction,” Kennedy said. “We will remove all 80 acres of the reservoir’s lining and replace it with a new one, including a rock drainage system.”

TBW officials expressed their confidence in Kiewit’s proposal of a completely redesigned layer as a “sound technical solution.” “We believe the Kiewit proposal will address the underlying causes of the reservoir’s soil cement cracking and restore full functionality,” said General Manager, Jerry Seeber.

Amid the years of a temporary fix or repair process of the reservoir, located near CR 672 and CR 39, the legal battle between Tampa Bay Water and the facility’s original designer, HDR Engineering, reached a courtroom showdown last year after TBW filed a lawsuit against HDR, seeking more than $100 million to repair the reservoir.

However, a decision last year by a federal jury in favor of the design firm, sent the nine-member TBW board behind closed doors to figure out what to do next and how to pursue the case.

The board later announced that it voted unanimously to authorize an appeal after a careful examination of its legal strategy.

The case is in court, yet to be resolved, but Moore said that the agency has incurred a little more than $10 million in legal fees.

“Rate pays will be affected,” Moore said during an earlier phone interview with the Osprey Observer. “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. 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.

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