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Manatee gauges water levels

A new rain gauge on Mill Creek will be the county's ninth gauge on waterways.

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  • | 6:50 a.m. February 15, 2017
  • East County
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Manatee County is installing a new stream and rainfall collection gauge to help it anticipate floods in the Mill Creek area.

The installation should be complete within 90 days.

“It communicates as it operates every second, every minute,” said Sia Mollanazar, the deputy director of engineering for the Manatee County Public Works department. “We could look at real-time data on any given day, how much rain was falling where, at what rate. It will show the corresponding flood level within the river rain system.”

So why is that so important?

Mill Creek is a flood-prone watershed and such information is useful for Manatee County staff as it monitors conditions. It also provides important information when it comes to the design of stormwater facilities associated with road projects.

Long term, if data show the Mill Creek area floods less than indicated on Federal Emergency Management Agency flood maps, that could mean a roadway could be built at a lower elevation, saving on engineering, stormwater, fill dirt and other costs.

“An additional two feet on a project could translate into millions of dollars of construction costs that are not necessary,” Mollanazar said. “You want accurate information for any design purposes. You want to have the real information. You want to know how a drainage basin will behave.”

Mollanazar said if information suggests the Manatee River will rise from 4 to 6 feet above sea level after just 2 inches of rain, the real-time information will either back up that information or tell a different story.

“It’s a great tool to have,” he said. “You don’t have to speculate. Mill Creek is one of our bigger, larger basins. We’d like to have better information on it.”

Manatee County already has eight other gauges situated at waterways throughout the county, including on the Braden River, Gamble Creek and Wares Creek.

Mollanazar said county staff members have long wished to place a stream, rain gauge station at Mill Creek, but did not have funding until now. He said savings on other projects freed up county funds.

The Mill Creek gauge will be situated on 131st Street at Mill Creek Road.

The gauge will cost between $8,000 to $10,000. Manatee County will install the equipment with its partner, the Southwest Florida Water Management District, which will operate the technology after installation.

Granville Kinsman, the hydrologic data section manager for the Southwest Florida Water Management’s data collection bureau, said his organization has been monitoring flood gauge sites in Manatee County since 2000.

“It’s really critical, when you have a wide area and minimal staff,” Kinsman said of the data collection. “Rainfall can happen very quickly. Not all areas will get the same amount of rainfall. If you don’t have a system like that, you wouldn’t know what is going on out there.”


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