Archive for Wednesday, August 1, 2001

Work along river depends on funding

August 1, 2001

This winter, work could begin on a project to stabilize the course of the Kansas River near Eudora if money's available.

Federal and county officials fear if the work is not performed, the bridge over the river that links Douglas and Leavenworth counties will be in peril.

But federal funding hasn't been secured for the $2 million project, and both Leavenworth and Douglas county officials say they don't have enough money earmarked to pay their shares.

According to Lamar McKissack, project manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the corps would pay half of the cost, and the two counties would split the remainder. The $2 million price tag, McKissack said, was a "working estimate."

Plans call for construction of a series of four dikes along the north bank of the river, just west of the bridge. The structures would be designed to stabilize the north bank of the river and to prevent the channel from changing course. The river is threatening to cut a new channel north of the bridge, which would mean the bridge would span and oxbow, and Leaven-worth County Road 1 would be under water.

"There currently is a dike system upstream of the bridge," McKissack said. "If the river continues to erode the bank, it will cut behind the dikes. It becomes more expensive to fix the problem with time, and it becomes a more difficult problem."

In addition, the threat to the bridge increases.

The corps hopes to seek bids this fall and begin work this winter, at a time that the river is low.

But that could proceed only if funding were secured. And that appears in doubt.

"The estimated cost of the project has gone up quite a bit," said Keith Browning, Douglas County engineer and public works director.

The county had budgeted money for the work, but not $500,000, Browning said.

It is possible, Browning said, that the project could be done in phases.

"We still have to go back to our county commission for funding, and we have to have an agreement with Leavenworth County," Browning said. "I'm sure they're in the same position, if not worse. We've just gone through budget, and money's real tight right now. The commission is going to have to make a decision, but local funding is up in the air right now."

On the other side of the river, Leavenworth County officials are in the same budgetary boat. Don Navinsky, Leavenworth County Commission chairman, said he's concerned about trying to find roughly $500,000 in next year's budget.

"We never had anticipated a cost like that," he said.

The county already has been through a tough budget process and is proposing a 9-mill increase in taxes to fund 2002 spending.

"This is going to have to be looked at long and hard," Navinsky said. "I think we'll have to sit down and do a lot of homework, a lot of studying to see just how far we can go."

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