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In most governmental instances, we offer plenty of support for local inclinations as opposed to those imported from the nation's capital. Local control of local issues is desirable in almost every case. However, the Cape Lacroix Creek-Walker Branch flood control project provides us with an exception to this idea, a federal authority with a firmer sense of judgment than some local entities involved. The advice of the federal agency should be heeded.

An official of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is managing the flood control project, told a city advisory board on parks last week that too much attention is being focused locally on the recreation elements of the $35 million endeavor. This observation was made in the context of the board's complaint that a recreation trail associated with the project is being narrowed from eight feet to six feet at two underpasses. The federal project manager offered the rather blunt assessment that local planners had "the tail wagging the dog."

Without doubt, the collective heart of the park board is in the right place. The concern of those members is that safety may be compromised by narrowing the trail at these junctures, and they have served a proper advisory role in bringing forward this opinion.

Still, some perspective must be brought to the recreation trail's role in this enterprise. It isn't exactly accurate to say the trail is a fortuitous aside to the mammoth flood control effort; the trail has been extensively planned, and citizens here knew it was part of the package when voting to approve a sales tax in 1988 to provide a matching fund for the project. When it's completed, the trail will be a splendid recreational outlet for the people of Cape Girardeau.

No mistake should be made, though, that the business of this flood control project is, first and foremost, flood control. The work has been needed in that section of Cape Girardeau for years, and the project is impressive in its development. In the midst of this expensive undertaking come requests for changes that are tapping into available financial resources and threatening to abbreviate other portions of the trail work. The original cost estimate of the recreation component, with about nine miles of trail, was $350,000. The city has already spent $190,000 for a segment of less than a mile.

We applaud all advisory boards for looking after the city's interests in their own particular fields. We also recognize as should the boards that larger issues of municipal wellbeing often eclipse more limited concerns of specific groups. The overriding interest in the flood control project, and the local tax voted for it, is to ease flooding concerns. The city must work within the confines of its resources and of this priority.