WATERLEFE — Residents of Waterlefe will take their fight against the construction of the Fort Hamer Bridge to the U.S. Coast Guard next week when the federal agency holds a public meeting for the project.
A public scoping meeting will be held from 4-8 p.m., Aug. 17, at Haile Middle School, 9501 S.R. 64 E. The Coast Guard will have display boards and other information on the project available for viewing and will start a presentation between 6-6:30 p.m.
Attendees will be asked for their concerns regarding how the bridge may affect the river and its wildlife as well as residents of neighboring communities.
Randall Overton, bridge management specialist and federal permitting agent for the Coast Guard, said he will use concerns to determine the scope of work for the Coast Guard’s pending environmental impact study.
“Is there something we’re not seeing out there?” Overton said. “That’s what we’re asking people. Do the people in the area have concerns that need to be brought forth? Let us know so we can look into it. They are all valid concerns, but to what extent can they be fixed?”
Residents of Waterlefe, in particular, have continued their opposition to the project and plan to attend next Tuesday’s meeting in forces. In their effort to derail the project, members of the Waterlefe Master Property Owners’ Association late last month presented the group’s resolution opposing the project to Manatee County commissioners.
“There are just so many issues that fall into play here,” resident Dick Hall said. “We want as many like-minded people who are interested (in the project) to be there. Anybody on Upper Manatee River Road is going to be affected.”
Residents’ concerns include noise and light pollution into their community as well as impacts on the river and historical areas associated with the site, including Fort Hamer. They also believe the bridge will cause safety issues regarding traffic because of the roadway’s proximity to both the community’s back gate and its golf course. Stray golf balls are readily found in the area where the bridge will be built.
“We think (the bridge) will have a significant negative impact on the Manatee River as well as traffic conditions on Upper Manatee River Road and on the north side of the bridge at Fort Hamer Road,” said Tom Davidson, who has led opposition efforts.
Davidson also noted the county plans to build only two of four lanes at first, which would force four lanes of traffic onto two lanes of bridge from both directions. The merging required would be yet another safety hazard, he said.
The proposed bridge, currently in a data-collection and engineering stage, would cross the Manatee River in two places and connect Upper Manatee River Road to Fort Hamer Road by Fort Hamer Park.
“We’re not for the bridge at the present location,” Davidson said.
Overton admitted that even at first glance, it appears the Fort Hamer Bridge project would not be lacking in challenges.
“Every single site is unique in its own way,” Overton said. “The way this one would stand (out is) just the area it’s in. Trying to put a structure where it’s at with as little harm to the environment as possible is going to be a challenge.”
Overton said completion of the environmental impact study is difficult to estimate; he’s seen studies last anywhere from one to 20 years.
The first time the Fort Hamer Bridge proposal went forward as a six-lane project, the environmental impact study on the then six-lane project lasted about two years before Manatee County commissioners canceled it. It still wasn’t finished.
The study, he said, also could end up costing significantly more than the county has budgeted for, depending on the scope of work and how quickly it can be completed.
Residents can give input for the scoping portion of the study through Aug. 23 by submitting it to the Coast Guard’s online docket via
. However, residents will be able to provide feedback throughout the EIS process, Overton said.
For information about the project, visit
Contact Pam Eubanks at
PUBLIC SCOPING MEETING
WHEN: 4-8 p.m., Aug. 17
WHERE: Haile Middle School, 9501 E. State Road 64, Bradenton
DETAILS: Information boards and other details of the project will be available to view. The U.S. Coast Guard will hold a presentation around 6 p.m. Attendees will have a chance to share their concerns about the project.
INFORMATION: www.forthamerbridge.com or Randall Overton, (305) 415-6749 or [email protected]