TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Hurricane season is just two weeks away. There is a system in place to protect Tampa Bay residents along the Hillsborough River from flooding by diverting water.
Hurricane Irma plowed through Florida’s west coast, bringing heaving rain and devastating flooding. During Irma, the Southwest Florida Water Management District said the Tampa Bypass Canal helped move three billion gallons of floodwater out of the Bay area.
The bypass canal runs parallel to the Hillsborough River for 15.7 miles. It’s made up of five flood control structures, allowing the district to manage the water flow. This system consists of the Hillsborough Flood Detention Reservoir, the Tampa Bypass Canal and the Harney Canal.
“During a heavy rain event, like a hurricane, the district is able to close the gates on the structure cutting off the river, preventing the flood waters from entering the cities of Tampa and Temple Terrace,” Operations Bureau Chief Jerry Mallams said.
The reservoir is 16,000 acres and is located northeast of Tampa and Temple Terrace. There is a 6.5-mile-long earthen dam associated with the reservoir. Mallams said when floodwater begins to fill up the reservoir, his team can use the system to divert and release the water into McKay Bay.
It wasn’t until Hurricane Donna in 1960 that the system was built.
“At that time, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers came in and designed and constructed this facility,” he said.