Tuesday, May 08, 2001

Ohio River project uncertain

Restoration not in budget

The Associated Press

        LOUISVILLE — A $307 million Ohio River restoration project could be on hold for at least a year.

        President Bush's proposed budget doesn't include any money for the Army Corps of Engineers project that's supposed to bring back fish, wildlife and scenic beauty to many miles of the river and its banks. Funding was not written into the project's congressional authorization last November.

        Congressional approval came too late for the corps to finish a budget request for fiscal year 2002 through the Army's bureaucratic channels, said Chuck Parrish, spokesman for the corps' Louisville District.

        But three lawmakers, including Kentucky Senators Mitch McConnell and Jim Bunning, said they'll try, their aides said.

        “As a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I am working with others interested in this issue to pursue funding for this project,” Mr. McConnell said in a statement. “I look forward to seeing this worth while program succeed.”

        Rep. Nick Rahall, D.-W.Va., the ranking minority member on the House Resources Committee, will also seek money for the project, said aide Jim Zoia, Democratic staff director for the committee.

        The river project won bipartisan support. Kentucky Republicans Mr. Bunning, Mr. McConnell and Rep. Anne Northup all voted for the program, as did many Democrats.

        The project's first step is to collect and evaluate scientific data about the river that will be used in setting goals and defining projects to be carried out over the next 15 years.

        The program involves all six Ohio River states: Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. With its network of 20 locks and dams along its 981-mile course, the Ohio is a major commercial route for shipping bulk commodities.

        The river and its floodplains have been altered over the years, the corps concluded in a study last year. The corps wants to repair some of the damage by restoring 10,000 acres of bottomland hardwood forests along the river; 25,000 acres of wetlands; 100 miles of shoreline habitat; and 40 islands.


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- Ohio River project uncertain