Olmsted problems

We're not arguing the importance of the Olmsted Dam, the control of the river system and the economic need to improve river transportation. Keeping the waterway open for barges is essential to large-scale commerce in the United States.

But the project, located on the Ohio River near Olmstead, Ill., is an obvious example of why our citizenry is skeptical of its government.

In last Sunday's story about the Olmsted Dam project, reporter Erin Ragan explained some history of the project.

In 1988, she wrote, $755 million for the project was authorized by Congress, which expected the project done in seven years. Appropriations began in 1991. The completion of the project originally was expected done in the mid-1990s. The spending ceiling for the project was raised to $2.9 billion in October when Congress ended the government shutdown with a budget deal. That amount is up from the $1.5 billion authorized several years earlier.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers blames the delays and cost overruns primarily on two things: one is Congressional budgeting. Corps officials say not enough was allocated to take the steps they needed to plan and execute the construction. Secondly, the project has been delayed because of a decision to build the structure using an "in-the-wet" construction, which means instead of using a coffer dam to reroute the river during construction, the project is being built under water.

One official called this method "a research and development project. Nothing like this has ever been done before."

It's safe to say this research and development project has been a bust. It's been an inefficient project. And no matter if you're judging by 1988 dollars or 2013 dollars, the cost overruns have been astounding. Now officials are hoping the dam is finished by 2020, with the upriver dikes and locks demolition set for 2024.

When a project misses expectations by a quarter of a century, and billions upon billions of dollars, it cannot be deemed a success.