26 years, $2 million, one conclusion: James floodsHURON — Twenty-six years after Congress first authorized the work, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is wrapping up its flood control report for the James River in South Dakota.
By: Bob Mercer, Republic Capitol Bureau
HURON — Twenty-six years after Congress first authorized the work, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is wrapping up its flood control report for the James River in South Dakota.
The corps’ scientists, analysts and data experts have arrived at the same conclusion as those before them who pondered the flat, meandering, slow-moving river: The James is naturally prone to spilling over its banks, and a single project can’t be done at a reasonable cost to change that.
Building levees that meet the corps’ requirements would be too expensive. Restoration of wetlands wouldn’t make much difference. Putney Slough can’t hold much more water.
Dams on the Elm River and Turtle Creek would be expensive and probably couldn’t find public acceptance.
Another idea considered by the corps, building 200 to 300 impoundments along the upper tributaries, would help but would take cooperation from many landowners and would require money nobody seems to have.
“It’s wildly cost ineffective, unless you don’t pay for the land, and if someone other than the corps builds the structure,” said Steve Rothe, the corps manager for the river study.
Rothe met Thursday with the James River Water Development District’s board of directors. He said the corps is preparing to write its final report, and he gave the board a wrap-up on the nine years of work by the corps.
“There’s nothing economically justifiable for the corps to construct,” he said.
While the study received the green light from Congress as part of the 1986 water resources development act, federal funding didn’t flow to the corps for the work until 2003. Annual appropriations were received through 2009, totaling $2.27 million. About $90,000 remains.
The James River district, meanwhile, spent about $3 million, whether directly or through in-kind contributions, for its part of the corps study and other work during that same stretch.