WKYT - Harlan - Headlines

Harlan County flood mitigation project suspended

By: Matthew Rand Email
By: Matthew Rand Email

CUMBERLAND, Ky. (WYMT) - A Harlan County flood prevention plan has been placed on hold for the foreseeable future. Funding has run out on the project that would widen creeks in Cumberland, Clover Fork and elsewhere in the county.

Folks from Cumberland who were around in 1977 can recall the flood like it was yesterday.

"This was all covered. This entire area was under water at that time," said Cumberland Mayor Carl Hatfield.

In the proceeding decades, pains have been taken to make sure the next flood does less damage. Congress had OK'd funding for an Army Corps of Engineers project to dredge and widen waterways and make improvements to regional infrastructure. Now the funding has been cut.

"So the funds we have now are just carry-over funds. We're going to try to expend the rest of them we had and close out the project, pending further funding," said project director Michael Callahan.

Cumberland's mayor says the news is unfortunate. The project had rebuilt two bridges in his city, and was set to replace two more.

"The bridge that was here had been condemned for years. We couldn't drive school busses across it. The post office wouldn't want their vehicles going across it because of the condition of the bridge," said Hatfield.

With Congress not supplying the necessary funding, properties along Looney Creek and the Cumberland River remain undeveloped.

"We could develop this property, we could develop it into something, you know a living condition, department stores, hardware stores or whatever we need," Hatfield said. "We need to promote our tourist activities, but as long as this detracts from the tourist activities. A bridge such as this, it's dangerous, it's an eyesore."

With the flood project on hold, city officials say Cumberland will just have to wait.

Officials say it is not uncommon for these kinds of projects to be placed on hold when funds run out, and then resuming when more money becomes available.

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