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Visitor updates county commission

Wednesday, January 16, 2002

BENTON - Scott County commissioners used a visit by Lloyd Smith, chief of staff for Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, to get an update on the St. John's pumping station project at New Madrid.

As part of Emerson and her staff's "On the Road and on the Job - Washington and Missouri at Work" tour of Southeast Missouri, Smith accompanied this Standard Democrat reporter during coverage of Tuesday's county commission meeting.

With the recent county flooding still fresh on their minds, commissioners asked Smith about the status of the Army Corps of Engineers drainage project.

During the Jan. 8 county commission meeting, Martin Priggel, presiding commissioner, said they will not be able to stop flooding in Scott County until water stops backing up in the St. John's Ditch.

The first part of the Corps project will improve the flood gates at New Madrid and put in a pump station with a pumping capacity of 1,000 cubic feet per second, according to Smith.

The second part of the project will close the last gap remaining in the levee and place flood gates and a pumping station there.

Environmentalists holding up the project with concerns about wetlands are thought to have withdrawn their opposition due to "environmental enhancements proposed in the package that weren't included in the last package," according to Smith, including off-season flooding of the spillway for waterfowl.

Smith said as the supplemental environmental impact statement for the project was completed in October, if the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Environmental Protection Agency do not oppose the project a decision should be final by June making a contract to begin the project possible by September or October.

Once completed, this work would set the stage for a second phase of projects that would clean out the St. John's and Northcut ditches, said Smith.

Smith also suggested commissioners meet with the Army Corps of Engineers to discuss the county's drainage needs.

In other Scott County news:

* Rodney Holloway, Scott City councilman, and Ron Eskew, city administrator for Scott City, discussed Scott City drainage concerns with commissioners including plans for cleaning out Ramsey Creek in south Scott City.

"I guess basically what we're doing is hunting for options," Holloway said.

Holloway said a big part of the problem is debris restricting flow in the ditches.

"It's been flooding for years there," said Priggel.

Commissioners agreed to help by leasing a county excavator to Scott City at an hourly rate. The city will have to provide its own operator, however.

Priggel also recommended a crew that has completed manual debris removal in ditches for the county.

Scott City and county officials agreed the box culverts under Interstate 55 are not large enough as well.

* Harlan Duncan, road and bridge department supervisor, discussed bids the county is gathering to replace the high-pressure steam cleaner for maintenance of county vehicles and equipment.