Rob Moritz with our content partner, The Arkansas News Bureau, frames up a bubbling debate in east Arkansas surrounding water security for farmers and the Congressional politics complicating an expensive project critical to Delta farming needs.
From his report:
The congressional ban on earmarks is closing the spigot on federal funding for two major water projects critical to eastern Arkansas farmers.
The Grand Prairie and Bayou Meto irrigation projects, in the planning stages for years and projected to cost nearly $1 billion, are less than one-fourth finished and federal funding is drying up.
Officials with both water irrigation districts, engineers in charge of both projects and representatives of the U.S. Corps. of Engineers are scheduled to meet Tuesday to evaluate prospects for additional funding. If new revenue can’t be found, officials will begin to mothball both projects, Randy Young, executive director of the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission, said last week.
“That would be a killer,” said Dennis Carman, chief engineer and director of th
e Grand Prairie Irrigation Project.
“We do have momentum going right now. We’ve got a lot of things going on the positive side, but I will tell you that if we get into the situation where we mothball, it takes an enormous effort to get it started again,” Carman said.
“That would be a major blow, not just to the Grand Prairie and the Bayou Meto, but for that matter the whole state,” Carman added, noting the continuing drop in the underground water table and the severe drought conditions statewide.
At the root of the debate — and the deal-killer for the project — is controversy surrounding federal earmark funding.
Without specific money for the Grand Prairie Irrigation Project and the Bayou Meto Project, hopes for completion of the water system are far-fetched.
Read more on the subject here, including comments from members of Arkansas' federal delegation.