Detention basin progresses

Thursday, November 1, 2001

The federal government is close to handing over the final $1.7 million needed to finish Cape Girardeau's 157-acre dry detention basin, which will wrap up 10 years and $48 million worth of construction on the Cape LaCroix-Walker Branch flood-control project.

Congress is poised to approve an energy and water appropriations bill that includes the money as well as funding for other projects in Southeast Missouri. The list includes $400,000 for the annual dredging of the slackwater harbor at the Southeast Missouri Port near Scott City, Mo.

A joint House-Senate conference committee approved the bill Tuesday, clearing the way for final congressional action. The bill then will go to President Bush, who is expected to sign it into law, said an assistant to U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Cape Girardeau.

The money for dredging is crucial to keeping the Mississippi River harbor open, said Dan Overbey, the port's executive director.

As for the flood-control project, the $1.7 million is the final phase of federal funding for the $4.5 million detention basin off Route W north of Cape Girardeau. The federal government is paying 75 percent of the cost of the basin. The city is picking up the remainder, which includes nearly $945,000 for installation of sewer lines in the area around the Route W Mobile Home Park.

Summer completion

Dumey Construction of Benton, Mo., began work on the basin in June 2000 and is expected to complete the work early next summer. A concrete spillway is being built as part of the basin.

City and Corps of Engineers officials say they are looking forward to the project's completion.

"It is an integral part of the overall project," said Bill Vaughn, the city's development services coordinator.

The basin will prevent water from rushing down LaSalle Fork, a tributary of Cape LaCroix Creek, and flooding parts of the city. Water would back up in the basin during heavy rain and then drain slowly through the creek system.

City and Corps officials say it is a key component to the flood-control project, which involved construction of a concrete channel on part of Walker Branch along Kingshighway and channel improvements on Cape LaCroix Creek. In all, the channel work extends three miles on Cape LaCroix Creek and Walker Branch. Four miles of hiking and biking trails were built as part of the project, and eight bridges were replaced along Kingshighway.

In a heavy deluge, the channel improvements and the detention basin could reduce flood damage by 72 percent, Vaughn said.

Already prevented flooding

"It is not a 100 percent protection for a 100-year storm," said Vaughn, who has worked on the project for a decade. But Vaughn said the channel improvements already in place helped in July when heavy rain hit the area.

While there was some flooding in the city, the channel improvements helped keep Town Plaza businesses dry. Some residents complained after the July storm that the flooding would have been even less if the detention basin had been in place.

Wayne Miller, project manager for the Corps in St. Louis, said litigation over the government's effort to secure right of way held up the detention work and slowed completion of the entire project.

"We could have been done with it three or four years ago if we hadn't had all the right-of- way problems," he said.

In the July storm, John Meyer's yard was flooded almost to his front door.

"My house was completely surrounded," said Meyer, who lives on Hopper Road not far from Cape LaCroix Creek. Meyer believes he wouldn't have had flooding in his yard if the detention basin had been completed.

Meyer is looking forward to seeing the project completed.

"We get a hard rain north of town, we won't have a problem if we can hold the water up there," he said. "Hopefully, it will eliminate the problem."

City officials have talked about eventually turning the detention basin into a park and putting in hiking and biking trails. But no funding is in place to do so immediately.

The access road to the construction site is closed to the public. A locked gate will continue to keep out the public once the basin is complete, Vaughn said.

"There is no reason for anyone to be in there," he said. "The access road will be gated until we can construct some public facilities in the area to start development of a park."

335-6611, extension 123

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