Joe P. Asher
Representatives for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Congressman Hal Rogers office gave an update on the status of a decades-old flood project during a recent meeting of the Tri-Cities Heritage Development Corporation’s Main Street Project.
According to a document supplied by the corps, the Harlan County Section 202 Project involves three specific areas — the City of Cumberland, Clover Fork, and Harlan County. The Cumberland portion includes the widening of Poor Fork and Looney Creek, bridge modifications and nonstructural measures. The Clover Fork portion covers approximately 19 miles of the Clover Fork River upstream of Harlan. The Harlan County portion addresses areas outside of Clover Fork and Cumberland.
No new funding for the project was provided for fiscal years 2011 and 2012, and the projected closeout is expected in late 2012 or early 2013 for all three sections. There are funds remaining to acquire five to six structures along Main Street in Cumberland, three to five structures in the Yokum Creek area of Clover Fork, and one to two structures throughout the rest of Harlan County.
Mike Callahan, chief of the Technical Resources Branch of the Nashville District for the corps, said the lack of funds will likely signal the end of the entire project unless Congress appropriates more funds.
Although the project has been approved, Callahan said the money that has been appropriated for the project is running out.
According to Callahan, work will be completed on any properties purchased to be demolished with remaining project funds.
“It wouldn’t make sense to buy it without having the money to demolish it, otherwise you’d just wind up with blighted properties,” said Callahan.
Callahan noted that any property purchased is not owned by the federal government.
“We never obtain the deeds. The federal government does not own the property at any time,” said Callahan. “We buy on behalf of the sponsors… We do not take title to the property. We do not own the property.”
Cumberland Mayor Carl Hatfield asked if the city could resell the property.
“Normally you can’t sell it, but you can lease it,” said Callahan. “In Harlan, a lot of times we buy a house… and actually lease the adjacent lot which has been scraped clean for like a dollar a year. That way they can put (for example) a playground on there, but nothing for human habitability — not for human occupation.”
U.S. Representative Hal Rogers has been an advocate of flood protection for some time.
“Flood protection has been a long-time mission of mine for our people living along the Cumberland River, from Williamsburg to the City of Cumberland,” said Rogers. “I successfully secured millions of dollars for flood protection over the last three decades and I will continue to work with the Corps of Engineers to ensure the people of Cumberland are not forgotten. I am disheartened by the delays in progress, but rest assured that Lt. Col. DeLapp knows this project is one of my highest priorities.”
Reach Joe P. Asher at 606-573-4510 or firstname.lastname@example.org