Thursday, May 1, 2014

Two from the lower Ohio

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is spending more than $12 million to rehabilitate 12-year-old locks that have never been put into service. And it could be a decade before they are.


That's what happens when a project drags on the way the Olmstead Locks and Dam has. Someday Olmstead will replace locks and dams 53 and 52. Dam 52 is at Paducah. Dam 53 is farther downstream and is the last one before the mouth of the Ohio (as geographers call it).

This article reports on two contracts the Corps has awarded to rehabilitate the locks.


The city of Cairo, Ill., has had troubles for nearly a half century. Adam and I were down there last May, and the city looks like many smaller towns along the river and away from it. The downtown is a shell of what it once was, and there apparently is little incentive to invest there other than to consolidate businesses such as branch banks and grocery stores.

I'm not going to badmouth Cairo here. As my wife says, you don't go into someone's house and criticize it. Even if I wanted to find fault, I don't know enough about the city to pass any sort of judgment on it, and right not it's not my job to do that anyway.

This week came reports that Cairo wants guidance in rebuilding its economy.

From the AP:

The 2,800-resident city announced Monday it is teaming with New Orleans-based planning and economic development firm GCR Inc. to create a comprehensive development plan.

Will it work? Beats me. For nearly 40 years, I've seen small towns struggle. I've seen dozens of plans for removing blight, for streetscapes, for arts corridors, for brownfield redevelopment ... you name it. I've seen strip plazas and malls built in town to compete with those out of town. Some have come to pass. Some haven't. Some shopping centers work. Some don't.

The one thing a city needs to attract investment is a reason for money to be there. As some folks would say, investors need to think they can make more money by putting a business in Cairo than they can somewhere else.

Doing these development studies at least brings the city's needs to the public's attention. Perhaps that will open some wallets. But you never know. I do know that Adam and I want to get back down that way this year if we can. I'll do a Kickstarter campaign if I have to, as having lost a regular job for the second time in five years really puts a hurting on a bank account, but we do want to spend a day or two or three down around Paducah and Cairo. You guys can have Myrtle Beach or a ski resort. Give us the beauty of the lower Ohio for a working vacation.

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