Flood wall component from Blunt visit

An example of building blocks for the type of flood control system Clarksville would like to install.

CLARKSVILLE – A federal grant of nearly $700,000 announced Friday should accomplish the engineering report needed to get a portable floodwall in place in Clarksville.

It represents, Mayor Jo Anne Smiley cautioned, a “baby step” toward the wall, a goal of hers and other city leaders for years.

“And we have a long way to go,” Smiley added

And its a step that requires the city to produce more than $14,000 in matching funds.

“I don’t have it in hand, but I’m working on it,” Smiley said in a phone interview Monday. Smiley said she was sounding out three potential sources of outside funds, including a business and a non-profit. It would be a substantial burden for the city to take on to its own budget.

“We’ve worked miracles in the past, and we might be able to come close, but miracle-working is not really easy when it comes to dollars and cents,” Smiley said.

The engineering report funded by the grant should give the city a sense of how much more it needs to raise to get the whole project done. In June, Gov. Mike Parson signed off on $2 million in state money for the project set aside by the state legislature. The city continues to look for other sources to financing.

“There are various areas, and we’ve got our fingers in every one of them we can find,” Smiley said.

While lobbying for resources, advocates for the wall have pointed to the substantial money  and energy expended by every level of government and private individuals keeping the flood-prone town dry and helping it recovery after flood season. They’ve also cited the economic potential they say could be unlocked if the historic center of Clarksville were better secured against the rising river. The press release announcing the grant said it was expected to produce $2.5 million in economic activity.

The grant came from the Economic Development Administration, a part of the Commerce Department. It was part of an addition $600 million appropriated by Congress in 2018 for disaster-related economic development projects.

Clarksville’s application was prepared by the Mark Twain Regional Council of Governments.

“A removable flood wall will greatly help the community defend themselves against regular flooding, protecting homes and businesses and increasing the economic viability of this historic town,” said Rep. Sam Graves (R-Tarkio) in a prepared statement. “I’m thrilled they have received this grant which gets them one step closer to securing the flood protection necessary to thrive.”

The search for an engineering firm to produce the report will be the responsibility of Mark Twain Regional Council, with the city making its choice with their advice, Smiley said.

The envisioned flood wall would protect the core of town, including the blocks where official floodfighting efforts have been concentrated. With that area protected, the hope is that resources could be freed up to protect other parts of the town. Reaching that goal is worth a drawn out process, in Smiley’s estimation.

“The standing and waiting is something that just drives all of us crazy, but we sure don’t want to make a miscue. So we’re doing everything we can to be cautious and complete,” Smiley said. “Its laborious, but I think its very necessary.”

Send questions and comments to athorp@pikecountynews.com.

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