CLINTON, IND. —
Clinton residents have reason to celebrate.
Federal officials have granted more than $800,000 toward a $1.2 million project of widening and deepening Feather Creek, which has been a flooding problem in the city since the Great Depression. Work could begin in spring 2013.
Mayor Jack Gilfoy Jr. got the news Tuesday from Col. Luke Leonard, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Louisville, Ky. Congress recently allocated $19 million for such projects, but it was up to corps leaders to decide whether Feather Creek would get any of that funding.
“I’m happy for the citizens of Clinton,” Gilfoy said Tuesday. “All of the past administrations [since the 1930s] have worked on this.”
Clinton has been struggling with Feather Creek’s topping its banks and flooding the heart of the city since at least 1939, Gilfoy said. The Army Corps of Engineers entered the picture in the 1960s, but, for various reasons, the project has always fallen through the cracks.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Jim Hendrix, a long-time Clinton resident who owns several homes along the creek and has worked for years to solve the problem. “I’m relieved not only for myself but for future residents of Clinton,” he said.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will be spending $819,000 on Feather Creek. Another $363,000 is coming from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, and the remaining funds, about $15,000, is coming from Clinton, a city of about 5,000.
In all, the project will cost about $1.2 million, said Kristy Jerrell of the West Central Indiana Economic Development District in Terre Haute. Jerrell has been the driving force behind getting the Feather Creek project to this point, Gilfoy said.
“I’m thinking of making her an honorary citizen,” the mayor said.
Feather Creek is a stream that runs through the heart of Clinton before draining into the Wabash River. When it floods, dozens of homes are affected. The flooding has led many homes along the creek to become abandoned over the years.
To prevent future flooding, about three-fifths of a mile of the creek will be made wider and deeper, Jerrell said. The corps of engineers is expected to spend about $200,000 on additional planning before ground is broken in little more than a year. Once work begins, the project is expected to take about 18 months to complete, Jerrell said.
“I really consider Clinton my second home,” Jerrell said sitting in her office Tuesday. A large, framed photograph of Clinton’s Sixth Street, deep in flood water, is on the wall behind her desk.
Once planning is completed, the corps will put the Feather Creek project out for bids.
Federal funding for Feather Creek was confirmed on Friday, according Amy Babey, a Corps of Engineers official in Louisville. Babey informed members of Clinton’s congressional delegation of the news Tuesday morning in an email.
Jerrell and Gilfoy credit U.S. Rep. Larry Bucshon and Sens. Richard Lugar and Dan Coats for impressing the corps with the importance of Feather Creek. They also credit the approximately 180 citizens of Clinton who attended a town meeting in January with corps officials.
“I’m just elated,” Clinton resident Hendrix said Tuesday. “This was worth fighting for.”
Arthur Foulkes can be reached at (812) 231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@