More than a dozen homes near the Manatee Lake Dam could be threatened.
The dam that protects homes from the Manatee Reservoir is deteriorating, and dozens of homes nearby could be threatened by a major rain event.
That's the startling conclusion of a study Manatee County Commissioners heard this week.
"Without intervention, a significant rainfall event could compromise the dam," said Larry Bustle, the chair of the county board of commissioners.
The fear is that a major rain event, like a tropical storm, could cause safeguards in the dam to buckle.
Since it was built 50 years ago, the Manatee Lake Dam has kept the gleaming reservoir at bay. It supplies water county-wide and keeps nearby homes -- and homeowners -- like Chris Lesser safe.
"We bought this house to be our final home," Lesser said.
Over time, the water has done what water does: yesterday, a private contractor found erosion in the dam walls and pockets of air in the basin. Now, a four-day rainfall could compromise the dam and cause flooding.
"We certainly hope it doesn't get washed away and we'll have Noah's ark," Lesser said.
In the short term, they may lower the reservoir level and come up with plans to reinforce the walls by injecting fresh concrete.
That could take two months, which could be done in time for rainy season.
"We have a window of opportunity and I think we are fortunate that we found it when we did. We think we have a pretty quick fix for it," said Bruce Mcleod, an employee of the county utilities department.
Longer term, between $3 million and $6 million of repairs could be necessary. They won't know until additional inspections are done.
"We think we have it under control, but we want to do some additional investigative work, to make sure we have all of our potentially compromised areas indicated," Mcleod said.
At a quarter mile, Lesser's home is closest of 18 that are potentially in harm's way.
"Right now we don't plan on moving, but we certainly hope the county will take some measures real quickly to protect us," Lesser said.
On Tuesday, more-extensive testing will be done to determine the extent of the damage. In the meantime, the county is asking for nearby residents to sign up for alerts that will be sent out in case something goes wrong.
For more information from Manatee County Government, visit online at www.mymanatee.org or call (941) 748-4501. You can also follow them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/manatee.county.fl and on Twitter: @ManateeGov
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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