CHARLESTON - The lead attorney for those opposing the St. John's Bayou Basin-New Madrid Floodway Project would like to meet with Mississippi County and East Prairie officials to discuss alternatives to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project.
Tim Searchinger, senior attorney for Environmental Defense, a national nonprofit organization based in New York, once again called Mississippi County officials during the regular County Commission meeting Thursday.
Commissioners had the deputy county clerk who received the call ask Searchinger to call them back again in 10 minutes so they could discuss and confirm their position on the matter.
Presiding Commissioner Jim Blumenberg said Searchinger is focusing on East Prairie's flooding problems and believes flooding will continue there even after the gap between the setback and frontline levees is closed with the Corps' St. John's Bayou Basin-New Madrid Floodway Project.
"He said it's not going to work, that the Corps lied," Blumenberg said.
Commissioners all agreed they believe the Corps' project will benefit the whole county, however.
Searchinger has been pitching an alternative for East Prairie which he says there is funding for, according to Blumenberg.
"How can you benefit East Prairie if you don't have an outlet?" asked Commissioner Martin Lucas. No matter what improvements are made to East Prairie's drainage system, the water has to be able to drain into the Mississippi River ultimately, he later asserted.
Plans for closing the 1,500-foot gap between the levees and building a pumping station there go back to 1914. "And they're closer now then they've ever been," Blumenberg said: local authorities aren't about to drop their support for the project now for a new, questionable alternative. "That's our goal - to get that gap closed and get the pumping station in."
According to Liz Anderson, the most recent obstacle raised by Environmental Defense was alleged inconsistent land mitigation figures but federal courts ruled against Environmental Defense and will allow the Corps to clean up the inconsistencies in their figures.
In other Mississippi County news:
* Rising fuel prices are putting the crunch on county budgets, according to Blumenberg.
The road and bridge department has already spent $54,000 of its $90,000 fuel budget for the year not including June's bill.
He estimated about 70 percent of the fuel money has been spent after only six months.
Lucas noted commissioners set the budget when fuel was about $1.65 per gallon for the county.
He also said fuel prices could continue to rise because platforms in the Gulf of Mexico are being shut down due to tropical storms.
"They have to evacuate those platforms and some of them get wrecked in the storms," he said.
Blumenberg said the sheriff's department has also spent 70 percent of their budget with another six months left to go.
* County officials have taken their first step in responding to a petition to close County Road 225.
Twelve signatures from the Long Prairie Township were required and the petition has 15 "so it is a valid petition," County Clerk Junior DeLay said.
Those opposed to the road's closing now have three months to file their objections, DeLay said.
Notice of the road's closure must be posted in three public places in the township, according to DeLay. "I'll take it to Bertrand City Hall, the post office, and Baker's (restaurant) or something," he said.
Also, all owners of land that the road touches or crosses must be contacted personally, which in this case is a single landowner.
* Commissioners approved the renewal of the annual cooperative agreement with what used to be the Division of Child Support Enforcement.
"Now it's called the Family Support Division," DeLay said.
Through the agreement, the state provides funding incentives for the county to enforce child support.
* Blumenberg said a county resident notified him of a huge commercial air conditioning unit that has been dumped at the Bird's Point area and speculated it may have come from one of the old buildings being torn down in Cairo, Ill.
* Commissioners are looking forward to new rules regarding change of venues that should go into effect in August.
Under the new rules passed by the legislature during their most recent session, the receiving sheriff has to agree to accept the prisoner, county commissioners said. If the receiving sheriff refuses to accept the prisoner, the county in which defendant is charged must hold the prisoner and arrange transportation to court hearings.
Commissioners said it seems like prisoners moved to the Mississippi County Detention Center on change of venues always seem to be the source of trouble at their jail.