Bypass Canal May Give County
Means To Avert A Disaster
By GIL KLEIN
Tribune Staff Writer
Let the heavens open, let the floodwaters
rise; after 22 years and more than $75 million,
the Hillsborough River is ready for one hum-
dinger of a storm.
That's because the Southwest Florida Water
Management District and the U.S. Army Corps
of Engineers have just about completed the
Tampa Bypass Canal that is designed to divert
floodwaters in the Hillsborough River away
from houses and crowded streets in Temple
Terrace and Tampa.
It also probably will help with Tampa's
water-supply problems during droughts by
creating small spring-fed reservoirs that can be
pumped into the Hillsborough River if the level
of the city's main reservoir drops.
"It's completed in essence," said Charles
Miller, the district engineer who has been over-
seeing the project. "I feel like if we need to use
it, we will."
And that should be good news for residents
of Sulphur Springs and Temple Terrace who re-
peatedly have been threatened by a rising Hills-
With storms dumping 8.34 inches of rain in
the Tampa Bay area during June nearly two
inches more than normal conditions are once
.again good for flooding, especially if hurricane-
intensity rains were to fall on the area.
But District engineers say the canal now
should be able to divert most of the water
created by a 100-year flood. That's a flood of
such magnitude that the likelihood of it happen-
ing is once in 100 years.
Tampa has not experienced a flood of that
size since records began to be kept in the early
part of this century, but smaller floods have
periodically rolled down the Hillsborough River
and severely damaged Sulphur Springs, other
parts of Tampa and Temple Terrace.
The worst flood on record was in September
1933, when the hurricane-swollen river broke
Map locates the path of the Tampa Bypass
keep excess water corralled. Tribune
through the Tampa Electric Co. dam at 26th
Street and washed through Sulphur Springs.
Flooding in 1959 and twice in 1960 prompted
local residents to petition the federal and state
governments for relief. The state created the
water management district and charged it with
the job of finding a way prevent future floods.
That was the beginning of the Tampa Bypass
U.S. Rep. Sam Gibbons convinced Congress
to authorize the canal's construction in 1962.
and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers started
digging what essentially
For more than a d
ect that has moved nm
earth and required thi
16,000 acres of land h
through central Hillsb
The canal runs 12
eastern part of the cou
width ranging from 20
20 feet deep at its d
is a new river in 1966.
cade and a half, a proj-
Illons of cubic yards of
purchase of more than
s been going on quietly
Smiles from the north-
ty to McKay Bay. With a
to 400 feet, the canal is
epest point. The Corps
See CANAL, Page 4A
From Page 1A
straightened and deepened the Palm River to
make the canal's mouth, and it built 12 bridges
Sand five flood-control structures.
The federal government paid for 83 percent
of the $62.5 million it cost to construct the canal.
while the state government picked up the re-
maining 17 percent. The state also paid $10.8 mil-
Slion to buy 15,000 acres that will hold flood water,
-while local property taxes paid the $5.25 million
for 1,200 acres of canal right-of-way.
Nature has been kind to residents along the
Hillsborough River since the project began. In-
stead of floods, the District contended with
droughts from 1961 until 1979.
By the time the Hillsborough River threat-
ened to flood again in September 1979, the first
Phase of the Tampa Bypass Canal project, known
as the Harney Canal, was completed and a possi-
ble disaster in Temple Terrace was averted.
Last month, the Harney Canal was opened
again .when heavy rains sent water washing
downstream while a wind-driven high tide
backed water up the Hillsborough River.
Jimmy Brooks, who operates the bypass
canal, explained how it works:
If the district sees that heavy 'rain falling in
the headwaters of the Hillsborough River in east-
ern Hillsborough County and Polk County is going
to amass a huge amount of water to flow down
the river, it has two options.
It can open the Harney Canal, which diverts
part of the river's flow at Temple Terrace down
the Tampa Bypass Canal, or it can close a dam
that has been constructed across the river farther
upstream in a remote area of Hillsborough
County near where Trout Creek Road crosses the
Interstate 75 Bypass.
By closing that dam, the District would cause
all the water flowing down the Hillsborough
River headwaters to back up behind a six-mile-
long levee onto 15,000 acres the District pur-
chased in northeastern Hillsborough County.
Then, when the river subsides, the District
can open the dam and allow all the water backed
up in the flood detention area to slowly flow
down the river to the city of Tampa's reservoir.
But. if the amount of water backing up behind
the levee should become too great, a flood con-
trol structure could be opened to allow millions
of gallons to flow down the Tampa Bypass canal.
Operating the flood control system can be a
delicate job. Brooks said. He has to make sure no
ne is flooded along th
.e must not overreact
a's water supply down
Although it wasn't ii
e canal system couk
after supply problems
Water from springs
come small reserve
brought last year, the c
om a water shortage
regional Water Supply i
n gallons a day from t
illsborough River up!
Now the authority is
ent Tampa's reservoir
But the main purpose
final is to protect peop
rough River from flo
"I think it's going to
Brooks said. though
11 know for sure until t
trm. "It's a very funct
1 going to save the cit)
'rrace from a lot of c
-Il I -
Hillsborough River, but
id send the city of Tam-
le Tampa Bypass Canal.
itially planned this way,
actually help Tampa's
ills the canals, and they
irs. During a severe
ty of Tampa was saved
because the West Coast
authority pumped 30 mil-
e Harney Canal into the
ream from the city's
seeking a permit to aug-
egularly from the Har-
of the Tampa Bypass
living along the Hills-
ds. Will it work?
work like it's designed
e admitted that no one
ie area is hit by a huge
onal system. Some day
of Tampa and Temple