Several residents of the city voiced various complaints regarding the project to Chris Girdler, who was in attendance as a field representative from Congressman Hal Rogers’ office.
Residents said the project has caused a pool of stagnated water which emits a foul odor, attracts mosquitoes and could lead to people getting sick.
“I felt like with the promises the Army Corps of Engineers made, they didn’t follow through on what they said they were going to do,” said former Loyall Mayor Pete Vowell. “Personally, I would like to see the cleaning of the old riverbed, the narrowing of the channel like it was promised, a creek or stream coming down the right-hand side with riprap and the rest of it filled in and someone to discuss the health risks.”
Vowell added that the channel should have never gotten into the condition it is in.
“My contention is that if the Corps would have followed through with what they were supposed to, all of that wouldn’t exist it would have been corrected,” he said. “What happens when there is water is it goes into the drain, and then the river keeps rising and airlocks it on the other end. It doesn’t take an engineer to figure that out.”
Linda Kirk, a resident of Loyall, said her property has been negatively affected by the project.
“The property that I have has certainly been devalued as a result of the work of the Army Corps of Engineers,” Kirk said.
Loyall Mayor Clarence Longworth said a member of the Corps admitted there is a problem.
“When the Army Corps was in here last year inspecting the levees there was one guy who spoke up and said we have a problem,” Longworth said. “He said if all the water in the old river was going through it, it wouldn’t be enough to flush it out, and in dry season we don’t have any water in the river.”
The question was later asked as to who the Army Corps of Engineers answers to.
“Therein lies the problem, so to speak,” Girdler responded. “They answer to the elected officials in Washington, D.C. However, from my experience, it is a very difficult working relationship.”
Girdler added that he was on a “fact-finding mission.”
“Hopefully, by me coming down here and hearing your concerns, I can take these back to Congressman Rogers personally and, hopefully, we can build the pressure up a little more so (the Army Corps of Engineers) will see the need for action here,” Girdler said.
Harlan County Judge-Executive Joe Grieshop, who was also in attendance, said he believes the Corps feels there is no problem.
“The bottom line is the Corps feels there is no issue. There does not seem to be enough traction to force the Corps to recognize that their has either been a design flaw or that what was designed did not meet the needs of this community with respect to that water,” Grieshop said.
James Howard, another Loyall resident, said a primary problem is that there is no way to clean the stream.
“There never was anyone left to maintain the stream,” Howard said. “There is no possible way to clean this stream. Whatever they do someone will have to have access to clean the stream. It will always have to be maintained regularly.”