Arkansas River channel funds found

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 123 views 

The Arkansas Commissioner of State Lands (COSL) office is breathing a sigh of relief, according to Director of Public Relations Nikki Heck.

On Wednesday (March 7), Heck told The City Wire that since Monday's town hall meeting in Fort Smith, the COSL has discovered that part of a $7 million appropriation to fund the 12-foot channel project on the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System has been spent, rendering the project ineligible for de-authorization at this time.

Monday, the COSL claimed that the 12-foot channel project was placed on a "consideration list for de-authorization," according to Associate Counsel Cory Cox. Since "no movements" were made on the project for more than five years, it was believed the project was eligible for a Congressional vote to de-authorize.

Cox noted on Monday “there is some disagreement” between the COSL and the Army Corps of Engineers regarding whether or not the project has “officially begun.”

But after the meeting, "congressional staffers found that money from the original $7 million appropriation is still being spent in small amounts here and there," Heck revealed, meaning the project is safe for now.

The $7 million was provided in the Omnibus Energy and Water Appropriations Act of 2005. According to the Wednesday release from Heck's office, "It was the intent of Congress that the Corps begin actual construction with these funds as directed, which the Corps did, and they shall be deemed Construction General (CG) funds."

The COSL claims the funds were mistakenly classified under "operation and maintenance." No representatives from the Army Corps of Engineers were available on Wednesday for comment.

Arkansas Land Commissioner John Thurston and others from the COSL will attend the National Waterways Conference in Washington, D.C., March 25-27, to “make our case for Congressional funding,” Cox revealed Monday.

The COSL is seeking approximately $180 million for the project, which would dredge the last remaining 10% of the system from nine feet in depth to 12 feet in hopes of increasing commercial traffic.