Three Mississippi River boat ramps in Tennessee will benefit from federal stimulus funds.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has awarded a $640,197 contract to Progressive Construction Co. of Alexandria, La. The contractor is scheduled to place an 8-inch concrete cap over existing boat ramps in Lake, Lauderdale and Shelby counties.
The Lake County boat ramp selected for repairs is located at Fritz Landing, west of Ridgely.
The Ed Jones boat ramp in Lauderdale County, located north of Chickasaw National Wildlife Refuge, also will be repaired.
Work is expected to begin in September and should be completed in December 2010.
The boat ramp repairs are made possible by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The Corps's Memphis District expects to receive $98 million in a two-year period. Of that amount, $13.9 million is to be spent in Tennessee, said Ken Bright, chief of the Corps' projects operation.
Boat ramps and access to the Mississippi River were issues Monday when the Mississippi River Commission stopped in Tiptonville. The commission is conducting its annual low-water inspection trip aboard to the M.V. Mississippi and holding public meetings in selected cities along the river.
On Monday, two men - one from Dyer County and one from Lake County - expressed their concern about a lack of usable boat ramps along the Mississippi River.
John Morgan, who represented a group of Dyer County sportsmen, reminded commissioners that he spoke to them in March about the W.K. Ford boat ramp near the Interstate 155 bridge.
The W.K. Ford boat ramp was built in late November 1994, opened Dec. 1, 1994, and closed less than a month later. The river level dropped suddenly, and the riverbank failed. Concrete revetments forming the boat ramp were torn apart with vertical drops of 2 to 14 feet. The ramp was rebuilt a year later and remained open about 10 months before a second problem surfaced: the ramp's lower end hadn't been graded properly. When the ramp was constructed, the lower end was already covered by water, and crews couldn't see what was happening.
"Mistakes were made and the ramp was never used," Morgan said. "The people of Dyer County feel the (U.S. Army) Corps (of Engineers) owes us a new ramp or at least to repair it.
"We were hoping you could fix this one someday on your lunch break. We could supply the doughnuts."
Brig. Gen. Michael J. Walsh told Morgan that the commission would respond to his request in a letter.
Morgan said he got a letter after his request in March. The letter suggested he find a different location for a boat ramp, supply at least half of the construction costs and get someone to maintain it.
In Morgan's mind, that wasn't an answer.
Dyer County has more than 30,000 residents and, he estimated, a quarter of them own boats. He asked what would happen if there were an accident on the river. Morgan said emergency personnel couldn't rescue anyone because there's no way to launch a boat here.
Glen Heskett of Tiptonville, a retired truck driver who planned to become a fishing guide on the Mississippi River, said Lake County doesn't have a single usable boat ramp on the river. He held up a copy of the Lake County Banner that announced the Corps planned to repair one of the river ramps soon. The newspaper was dated May 17, 2006. He said the work hasn't started yet.