Federal money received for watershed projects

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By Dave Taylor

Carroll County Fiscal Court approved an Emergency Budget Amendment Reading during its Jan. 26 meeting that acknowledges the receipt of federal reimbursement dollars back into the county budget. The county had paid for repairs to area creeks and a landslide near Worthville as part of a federal emergency watershed program.

The total cost of the projects was in excess of $1.25 million, for which the federal reimbursement was 75 percent.

“We had to pay all that out in advance,” Carroll County Judge-Executive Harold “Shorty” Tomlinson reminded the magistrates. “This is the reimbursement of the federal portion of the project. All the work that was bid has been completed,” he said.

A federal project through the Natural Resources Conservation Service was made available to local governments last year to assist with installation of emergency watershed protection measures. Initially, funding was made available to Carroll County for projects on East and West Prong Locust creeks and Mill Creek. Tomlinson sought and received approval for additional funding to add Notch Lick and a landslide in the Worthville area to the project.

According to the NRCS Web site, the Emergency Watershed Protection Program was set up by Congress to respond to emergencies created by natural disasters. It is designed to relieve imminent hazards to life and property caused by floods, fires, windstorms and other natural occurrences. It is generally not an individual assistance program. All projects undertaken must be sponsored by a political subdivision of the state, such as a city, county, general improvement district or conservation district. The United States Department of Agriculture’s NRCS is responsible for administering the program.

EWP provides funding to project sponsors for such work as clearing debris from clogged waterways, restoring vegetation and stabilizing river banks.

Over time, rock and mud in the creeks accumulate and cause the banks to erode. In some places, Tomlinson said, the creeks had eroded in areas close to roads and created the potential that if they were not cleaned out and opened up, sections of the roads could have washed out.

Local contractors, including Luhn & Oak Construction, Kemper Construction and Burkhardt Excavating, were awarded the bids. Bids were awarded based on contractor bids coming in within cost projections made by NRCS representatives.

Tomlinson said the county received wire transfers of $101,452.50 on Jan. 12, $194.601.78 on Jan. 19, $104,370 on Jan. 25 and $540,527.25 on Jan. 26 for a total of $940,951.53. The amount is the federal government’s 75 percent allotment of the total project. The county’s portion of the total cost was nearly $314,000, he said.

“We still have a grant application in process with the State Department of Local Government,” Tomlinson said. “We are trying to pursue a grant through them for up to $186,000. If we get that then the project would end up costing us a little over $100,000 instead of over $300,000. That’s a pretty good investment considering what it might have cost to replace bridges or sections of road damaged or destroyed by erosion if we hadn’t done the watershed project.”

Tomlinson said the county is looking at a few other potential areas which may be eligible for still more funding through the federal watershed protection program. Those include other areas on East and West Prong Locust creeks, an area along the Little Kentucky River and a couple of other small areas. He said NCRS representatives planned to inspect these potential sites in the near future to make cost projections for repairs.

“This has been good for the local economy,” Tomlinson said. “It gave several local contractors work they wouldn’t have had this winter. Anytime you can put $1.25 million back into the local economy that’s good for the community.”

The current high water level of the Ohio River shouldn’t create any problems for work that has been completed, Tomlinson said.