Long to file Corps bill again; three kayakers have died in same spot in southwest Missouri in past 17 months

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (Missourinet)- A congressman from the southwest Missouri Ozarks will file a bill again in 2021, aimed at preventing future deaths of kayakers.

U.S. Rep. Billy Long, R-Springfield, notes three kayakers have drowned in the same location on Bull Creek in the past 17 months. The drowning deaths happened near Saddlebrooke, between Springfield and Branson.

Congressman Long tells Missourinet that he’ll work closely with another Missouri congressman to get the bill passed next year.

“With all of the emphasis on COVID relief, it (the kayaking bill) was not able to be moved through the legislative process in the 116th Congress. I will introduce it again at the start of the 117th and will work with Rep. Sam Graves to make sure it goes through his T&I committee and gets on the floor for a vote in the House,” Long says.

U.S. Rep. Sam Graves, R-Tarkio, is the ranking Republican on the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Long’s bill would require the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct an in-depth study of the nationwide permitting process.

He says a southwest Missouri landowner received a linear transportation nationwide permit (NWP) from the Corps for a low water crossing. Long says the contractor built a structure 18 feet wider and one foot taller, than approved by the Corps.

“So I went down there to look at it and honest to goodness, I thought that I was looking at a county bridge, where we were going to cross and get over to where this low water crossing was. It was a massive structure,” Long told Missourinet in an October story.

He notes the landowner removed the structure, after the three deaths. Long says high water in that area near Saddlebrooke formed a dangerous vortex.

He says two kayakers died in the first incident.

“The second incident was a man and a wife, and the man could get over to the side and he actually had a hold of his wife, if you can imagine anything so traumatic,” Long said in October. “And he couldn’t hold her. It (the vortex) just sucked her out of his hand, he couldn’t hold her.”

Long’s bill would require the Corps of Engineers to determine how much funding and personnel they need to inspect every structure like this, and to include public safety as a condition of compliance.

Congressman Long says the Corps currently only has enough staff to visit ten to 20 percent of completed structures, adding that there is no requirement for the Corps to inspect completed projects after NWP’s are issued.

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