U.S. representative: Olmsted project a 'complete failure'

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Reporter - Robert Bradfield
Photojournalist - Jason Thomason

OLMSTED, Ill. — Bill Gilmour is as frustrated as anyone by the lack of progress at the Olmsted Lock and Dam, mostly because he said the problem isn't with the people on site but with the people in Washington.

"Everyone in the Corps is trying as hard as they can but we can't overcome," he said. "We aren't giving enough money. There's nothing we can do about it."

Gilmour said bad weather and fluctuating funding by Congress has set them back for the past 10 years.

"Starting in 2002, 2003, especially when we awarded the dam, we started having all kinds of funding problems," Gilmour said.

While Gilmour said the project is coming along, U.S. Representative Ed Whitfield said it's not coming along fast enough. Earlier this year, he called the project a complete failure.

"It's a complete failure in the sense that they started this project in 1988 and they expected it would cost $775 million, and it's still not completed after all these years," Whitfield told Local 6.

The project runs through some of Whitfield's district in Ballard County, Kentucky. He said the Corps was in over its head to begin with and now 17 years later, the funding is catching up.

"The bottom line is there is simply not enough money and we have a $16 trillion debt," Whitfield said.

But Gilmour doesn't see it that way.

"The Corps of Engineers does not agree with Mr. Whitfield's, Congressman Whitfield's opinions," Gilmour said.

Congress is not the sole funding source. A gas tax on barge companies was supposed to cover half the costs but Gilmour said it hasn't come close to that.

Gilmour said he expects to receive about $6 million less next fiscal year than he received last year.

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