Lawmakers Seek Funds to Repair Road Collapsing Into Ohio River

Sat March 27, 2004 - Midwest Edition

CLARKSVILLE, IN (AP) Indiana’s two U.S. senators and U.S. Rep. Baron Hill are scrambling to find funds to repair a Clarksville road that is collapsing into the Ohio River and threatening a river greenway project.

Portions of Emery Crossing Road started sliding down a steep embankment in January as the riverbank eroded just yards from a nearly completed $1.7 million bridge that is part of the Ohio River Greenway.

That planned recreational trail would link Clarksville, New Albany and Jeffersonville. The eroded roadway is near the vacant, original town of Clarksville, which is believed to contain artifacts dating to the 1780s.

It is within a larger stretch of shoreline a mile in length that local officials believe is at risk of severe erosion. Army Corps of Engineers officials said the erosion is being caused mainly by natural forces such as the water current and floods.

Col. Robert Rowlette Jr., commander of the corps’ Louisville district office, said it would take $2 million to $5 million to repair the damage to Emery Crossing Road.

Rowlette said that would include a yearlong study of the entire riverbank, adding that funding for the survey and repairs is uncertain.

However, a spokesman for Hill, D-Ind, said he was joining U.S. Sens. Evan Bayh and Richard Lugar of Indiana in pressing for an immediate solution to prevent more erosion.

Stefan Bailey, Hill’s legislative director, said funding estimated at $1.5 million needed to repair the road and shore up that area of the riverbank likely would come from the corps’ existing budget.

Because the eroded area is near the water’s edge, construction work can be done only three or four months of the year, when river levels are low, corps officials said.

Bailey said Hill, Bayh and Lugar also hope to secure more federal money for long-term repairs to the entire shoreline. He said he couldn’t put a price tag on that work.

He said one such funding avenue would be through U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Ind., the ranking member of the powerful House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee.

Corps officials have described the erosion in Clarksville as “critical,” but a spokeswoman declined to comment on the possibility of a fast-track solution.

Dr. Jeff Schaefer, a geotechnical expert with the corps, said the way the water flows through a sharp bend in the river exacerbates the damage to Clarksville’s shoreline.

Civic leaders have expressed concern that the swirling waters generated by the lower gates of the McAlpine Locks and Dam on the river may be hastening the erosion.