Wednesday, June 08, 2011

TOP STORY > >Boozman supports project

Leader staff writer

Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.) was in Lonoke last week for a briefing on the seven-year, $614 million Bayou Meto Basin project.

Even though Boozman is for limiting federal spending and bringing down the national deficit, he supports funding for the Bayou Meto project. He believes it is a good use of federal dollars; by investing in infrastructure it helps creates jobs and long-lasting economic development for communities. Boozman, who opposes earmarks, said it was important to secure funds for the project near Scott and in Jefferson County.

“Inclusion in the 2012 budget is important, but we don’t need to panic if it doesn’t,” the senator said.

The Bayou Meto Water Man-agement District needs to secure $40 million in federal funding for the 2011 through 2013 fiscal years and needs to be included in President Obama’s 2013 fiscal year budget for the next phase of construction on the Bayou Meto project.

The funding is needed to construct the second portion of the project.

The three-year plan includes building an inlet channel from the Arkansas River to Pump Station 1 in Scott, an outlet from a water reservoir next to the pump station to a water canal, the construction of three canals to deliver water to farms in Lonoke, Prairie, Jefferson and Arkansas counties and installing an electrical substation and transmission lines.

Boozman said the challenge in Washington is with the trillion-dollar debt.

“Forty cents of every dollar is borrowed money,” Boozman said.

Boozman complimented the Bayou Meto Water Management District. He said it is doing a tremendous job coordinating a great plan.

“These things don’t happen. It is a lot of hard work,” he said.

Federal funding for all of the Bayou Meto Water Management District’s projects came from earmarks, which are legislative allocations of federal money for specific projects.

Boozman said the Bayou Meto Basin project is getting national attention as other areas in the country look for ways to conserve water.

The Bayou Meto board of directors is concerned about the future of earmarks and the limited amount of federal funding that will be available for infrastructure projects in fiscal year 2012.

Overall the Bayou Meto Basin project needs an estimated $350 million in federal funding from Congress and $190 million in matching funds from the Game and Fish Commission, local farmers and money borrowed by the Bayou Meto Water Management District for completion.

Construction on the first portion of the Bayou Meto project is under way. A $31 million pump station and its reservoir near Scott will take in water from the Arkansas River. A second $11 million pump station is under construction near Reydall in Jefferson County. The second pump station will pump water flowing downstream from the Bayou Meto Wildlife Management Area into the Arkansas River.

The Bayou Meto Basin project will help farmers with irrigation by having an alternate water source instead of using wells to pump out water from the depleting aquifer. The project will also improve water management and control flooding in the Bayou Meto Wildlife Management Area.