• A sign that was placed years ago at Fourth and West streets, announcing the new Salt Creek Park would be coming in the summer 2014, includes a small secondary sign placed on it that reads, “When the US Corps of Engineers makes a decision.” President Barack Obama signed the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the the Nation Act into law Dec. 16 and effectively removed the Corps of Engineers from the project. (Leader file photo)

Major hurdle cleared to begin Salt Creek park project

The Brazos River Authority on Monday approved a contract with the City of Graham regarding the Salt Creek Park project that excluded the Army Corps of Engineers and authorized the transfer of $1.4 million to the city for the project.

Graham belongs to the upper region of the Brazos River Basin and the proposal was presented by Upper Basin Regional Manager Michael McClendon to the BRA members during their board of directors meeting in Waco.

“It (the proposal) provides as I stated the authorization of the general manager to execute an agreement. It also provides $1.4 million amendment to the FY18 budget, $1.3 million would be conveyed to the city consistent with the terms of that agreement,” McClendon said. “The city would take over some of the requirements that the BRA had to provide recreational improvements and it would also help for the O&M cost associated that the city will maintain that property from here on out and then there is $100,000 in there for direct labor costs. We have had to mow that property and there has been a lot of illegal dumping and we have had to remove a lot of trash, and so I have some cost that I want to capture that was unanticipated.”

Progress

One component of the project that McClendon said has been completed was the removal the individuals from the ten-year floodplain and the demolition of the associated structures. The ten-year floodplain refers to land that is susceptible to flooding and has a ten percent chance of occurring in any given year, according to the BRA.

The problem for both the city and the BRA regarding the project was not one of funding or manpower, but of a delays from the Army Corps of Engineers, McClendon said.

“The biggest problem we had as Director (Carolyn) Johnson pointed out was the delays,” he said. “Every time you delay, every day you can have a flood and then you would have an extreme liability associated with that.”

McClendon said the BRA will hold a flooding easement over the properties within the ten-year floodplain, but will not have an easement over the area with across Hwy 67 where the Sale Barn and softball fields are held. Flowage or flooding easement land is privately owned land on which the BRA holds the right to flood if necessary.

The BRA did not budget any funding for the project in their fiscal year 2018 budget, but made the proper amendments to the budget and provided an extra $100,000 for Graham to use for operations and maintenance of the land.

“In 2012 when the Corps provided its options to us we were anticipating moving forward at that time, however as I said there were multiple delays so FY18 I did not budget any funds. I wanted to wait until it materialized and I would come back and request authorization from the board to move forward,” McClendon said. “Also we wanted to be more prudent in our budgeting process. Each year we were budgeting $1.4 million and it wasn’t getting spent.”

The original cost outlined by the Army Corps of Engineers for the project was not enough for the BRA to even complete one of three required steps and gradually would have gotten higher, McClendon said.

“Originally the Corps of Engineers budget for this when they came to us was $4.2 million,” he said. “When they came to us in 2011 what prompted that is it had gone up to $6.5 million and that is when we went back and said ‘hey that would have only gotten us through phase one of the three phase project,’ so looking at it now our cost to date if you include the 1.3 million that we pay for the recreation and the O&M to the city, it is $6.3 million and so we are actually under what they projected just for one additional year and the corps was going to continue to keep escalating that cost over time.”

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The Graham Leader

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