WASHINGTON - President Bush's signature on the Energy and Water Appropriations Act brings good news for New Madrid residents.
Among the programs funded is a $4.1 million project to improve the New Madrid riverfront and levee.
Leading the support for the project was Eighth District Representative JoAnn Emerson. Emerson first visited with city officials in April about their idea to create a park and improve maintenance of the town's levee.
Lloyd Smith, Emerson's chief of staff, said the project appealed to the representative for several reasons.
"Primarily it appeared to JoAnn and to all the folks around that the New Madrid riverfront needed improvement. What this will do is make the levee easier to maintain and safer. The area will be more aesthetically pleasing and people will be able to view the river without impeding traffic," Smith said.
City officials had explained to Emerson that the large rocks which currently keep the levee from erosion by the Mississippi River had made upkeep difficult. They suggested filling in along the rocks with dirt and planting grass, thus making it easier to mow.
Also the initial proposal includes the purchase of the vacant lot on Main Street across from the New Madrid Historical Museum and next to the levee. Here, a parking lot and restrooms are planned along with a handicap access to the levee.
Work along the levee would include the construction of a lighted walking path with benches for seating and improved parking. There will be tables for public use and amphitheater seating in the Riverfront Park. Improvements are planned for the boat ramp as well as the ramp access and parking area.
Smith praised the city for its efforts in developing and promoting the proposal. "The city did an outstanding job in explaining the problems, how they came about and the stop gap measures being used to maintain the levee."
Designated a Corps construction project, the levee front improvement funds will be funneled to the Corps of Engineers. Smith said the project probably would be subcontracted with work beginning within the next 12 months, depending on weather conditions and the river level.
New Madrid City Manager Furg Hunter said city officials would like to see the project completed within the next year to 15 months.
"The City of New Madrid is extremely excited about all of the possibilities the completion of this project will bring to our riverfront both in appearance and maintenance," Hunter said.
The recently approved act also includes several other area projects, which Emerson was following.
"The Eighth District has more land that is bordered by the Mississippi River than any other Congressional district in the nation," said Emerson in announcing the funding. "That is why I am especially pleased that projects benefiting Southern Missouri received the attention and funding that is so crucial to the livelihoods of everyone who lives, works and recreates in and along our rivers."
The Energy and Water Appropriation Act also included funding of:
* $1,000,000 for the St. John's Bayou/New Madrid Floodway;
* $290,000 in maintenance for the New Madrid County harbor;
* $50,000 in maintenance for the New Madrid City harbor; * $80,000 for snagging and clearing the Farrenburg Ditch;
* $400,000 for the SEMO Port;
* $25,000 for the Little River Diversion Channel;
* $550,000 for Main Ditch No. 8; and * $205,000 for Lateral No. 3.
She describes the projects as the result of efforts of cities, counties and federal entities working together to ensure funding for flood control and economic development. "The completion of the projects will provide long-needed support to communities threatened by flooding while providing economic growth and recreation potential for those working and living in the river area," Emerson said.