Thursday, Dec 12, 2013
Olmsted Dam Project Gets Money and Scrutiny
OLMSTED -- The deal to reopen the government includes new funding for a troubled project on the Ohio River. The legislation approved by Congress and the President Wednesday night funnels billions of dollars to the Olmsted lock and dam project in Pulaski County.
The work to replace two Ohio River locks was approved by Congress in 1988. It was set to cost $775 million and be finished in seven years. Instead, the project has seen delay after delay, costs have skyrocketed to nearly three billion, and it's not set to be operational until 2019.
The Olmsted Lock and Dam project is a sight to see, but for former Joppa resident Lloyd Carlton, it's like looking at the past.
"All those projection dates don't look like they've been met."
Carlton hasn't been back to Olmsted since he moved away in the early 2000's, and he thought he'd come back to see what used to be the talk of the town.
"It was supposed to be pretty close to done," Carton remembers. "In fact, they told me in a few years when I came down it'd be done."
What Carlton didn't expect to see was the exact same scene 12 years after he left the state. But the Army Corps of Engineers is adamant this project needs to be finished, no matter what the cost.
"We're very close to being at the halfway point," says Brad Bradley, the project's resident engineer for the Army Corps of Engineers.
Bradley has only been the resident engineer for the project the past three years, but he's getting the heat for 25 years of construction delays and rising costs.
"What do you say to folks when you're asking for more tax dollars?"
"Well, we say we need the funding to complete the dam. Not providing the funding to get it completed would be, really, an even bigger waste of money," he says.
The old 52 and 53 dams that are being replaced are some of the oldest in the country and are falling apart.
But why is the project taking so long and costing so much money? Much of it can be traced to a new "In-the-Wet" technique that allows continuous river flow during construction. Water levels and weather conditions can hinder the work and there have been unforseen equipment costs.
"It certainly has taken people longer than what was originally thought," says Bradley. "I would believe that if you took all parties that were originally there making the decision and put them together, they may say that, 'Well, maybe it was not the best call.'"
But Bradley says there's no turning back now, and he believes this recent funding will be enough to finish the job and finally give Carlton that new sight he longs to see.
On Capitol Hill, though, several lawmakers are expressing their anger for having this money slipped into the bill to reopen the government. Some are calling it the "Kentucky Kickback." News 3 tried to contact Senators Dick Durbin and Mitch McConnell. No one returned our phone calls.
Durbin told reporters at the Capitol he had nothing to do with it. According to TIME, McConnell referred questions to two ranking democrat senators on an appropriations subcommittee and they admitted they placed the Olmsted funding in the measure.
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