Cape County Commission votes to sponsor drainage program

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Cape Girardeau County Commissioners voted unanimously Monday to sponsor an Emergency Watershed Protection Program project to address drainage issues along two area creeks.

Last spring, when Cape Girardeau experienced record rainfall, it led to flooding in many creeks, streams and low-lying areas. The rise of the Mississippi River displaced sediments into many drainage ditches, preventing them from carrying as much water and causing rain water to back up and cause local flooding. Cape County Ditch 1 along Route NN and the Bean Branch ditch were both affected by the sediment displacement.

"With sediment washing back into them and then settling, you don't have the drainage you did before," said assistant flood plain manager Stan Murray. "We need to restore the draining hydrology back to it."

The Emergency Watershed Protection Program was set up by Congress to relieve hazards to life and property caused by natural disasters. Many local drainage districts have taken advantage of the program, with about $41 million approved for projects in 10 counties in Southeast Missouri to repair damage and remove silt from the spring flooding.

But Cape County Ditch 1 and Bean Branch Ditch do not operate under a drainage district. Murray applied for the program in August, but without a project sponsor, the project was ineligible for assistance.

Because public agencies in state, county, or city government are also eligible sponsors, Murray sought sponsorship from the county commission.

The county is now responsible for providing land rights to do repair work, securing necessary permits and furnishing the local cost share.

The estimated cost of the project is around $89,000. While the program will fund up to 75 percent of the cost, the remaining 25 percent must come from a local entity -- in this case, the landowners.

"The county is acting as a pass through, a project sponsor, to make sure the work is completed and the money goes to the people that put money up front," said James Hunt, the district conservationist with the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Engineers determined what acreage was being drained by the Bean Branch Ditch, which came to a total of roughly 700 acres, according to Wayne Deneke, a landowner involved with the project. He said the cost was divided by the total acres involved and disbursed according to the amount of land owned by each resident. The designated landowners will pay their portion of the costs and await reimbursement from the county.

Murray said it will now just be a matter of working with the landowners, a project manager and a contractor to draft a memorandum of understanding. No date has been set for further review.

cwest@semissourian.com

388-3654

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