William J. Fonferek grew up in Wisconsin where his parents were managers of the Oconto County Park at Chute Pond. In 1968, Fonferek signed up for the Navy and was selected to attend their Advanced Electronics Program. After his enlistment was up, Fonferek enrolled at the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay where he received his bachelor’s in environmental science in 1976. He was hired by the US Army Corps of Engineers as an Environmental Specialist working in the Regulatory Branch. In 1989, Fonferek transferred to Jacksonville District to work as a biologist. He was eventually assigned to manage the maintenance dredging of the harbors and waterways. While in the Tampa Bay area, he worked on several projects including Port Sutton Restoration, Highland Lake Restoration, and the Dredge Hole Study. In 2006, Fonferek received a promotion in the Savannah District to work in a Regulatory Field Office where he supervised a team of senior biologists and a field office at Lake Lanier. He was also on the legal team for the Corps advising the Department of Justice on the “Water Wars” issue between the Corps and the states of Alabama and Florida. Fonferek retired from the Corps in 2009.
During this oral history interview, Fonferek recalls the time he spent in Tampa during the late ’80s and early ’90s working as a Corps biologist during the dredging of the Tampa Harbor. He describes how the Corps found ways to use dredged materials beneficially without affecting bay area wildlife. He also discusses his collaboration with local ornithological experts, the Agency on Bay Management, the Tampa Port Authority, the Southwest Florida Water Management District, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Throughout the interview, Fonferek talks about how the Corps balanced the needs of the economy and environmental concerns.