Quincy News

Klingner spends time in Memphis promoting river issues, hiking/biking trail

Mike Klingner
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Sep. 20, 2019 12:01 am Updated: Sep. 20, 2019 12:03 am

QUINCY -- Mike Klingner of Quincy had an unusually hectic schedule while on a business trip this week in Memphis, Tenn.

Klingner, the president and chief engineer of Klingner & Associates, spent part of Wednesday giving a presentation with Quincy Mayor Kyle Moore to some representatives of Rotary International in Memphis.

Klingner and Moore made a pitch for a possible six-figure grant that could be used to help complete a portion of the Quincy Park District's Bill Klingner Trail from Bob Bangert Park to Lincoln Park.

Then on Thursday, Klingner put on a different hat and stepped up to give a presentation at the National Waterways Conference at the Peabody Hotel in his role as chairman of the Upper Mississippi, Illinois and Missouri Rivers Association (UMIMRA).

Klingner served on a panel that discussed how a collaborative approach to water resources management could benefit communities nationwide.

In his first presentation to the Rotary International folks, Klingner highlighted Quincy's innate connection to the Mississippi River, which is famous around the world.

He and Moore told how the proposed expansion of the Bill Klingner Trail -- a project named for Klingner's late father, a legendary civil engineer known throughout the region -- would provide better pedestrian access to the environmental improvements being proposed by the Quincy Bay Area Restoration and Enhancement Association.

QBAREA is seeking up to $20 million in federal funds to restore Quincy Bay, the 31/2-mile-long backwater at the city's doorstep. Quincy Bay at one time was a fishing and hunting paradise, but years of accumulated siltation have severely eroded the bay, endangering its future. The restoration project would try to turn that around.

Klingner said he and Moore appealed to Rotary International for funding through a "global-type grant program" that recognizes the importance of celebrating community connections to natural areas, such as the Mississippi.

Klingner noted how the Quincy Rotary Club has financially supported other elements of the hiking/biking trail along Cedar Creek on Quincy's north side. He hopes Rotary International also will lend support to the project.

"Every little bit helps to getting this next segment done," he said.

In his presentation at the National Waterways Conference, Klingner talked about what's being done to restart a proposed "comprehensive plan" that would guide flood-control efforts along the Mississippi and Illinois rivers.

UMIMRA has been pushing for a comprehensive plan for years, but the effort ran into some roadblocks. For one thing, he said, the original plan was deemed to have a low cost-benefit ratio from a national perspective. "So the Office of Management and Budget basically killed it," he said.

A later version of the plan also faced some opposition from the owners of certain low-lying properties in southwest Illinois and southeast Missouri that would have been designated for flooding during high-water events.

Klingner said UMIMRA is now seeking authorization for a revamped comprehensive plan that would take into account a couple of new components that weren't available when the plan was initially authorized by Congress in 1999.

One component, he said, would enable the federal government to pay landowners along major rivers for allowing their properties to store water during emergency flood events.

"In the original comp plan, we were going to do buyouts," Klingner said. "Well, that was kind of dead on arrival because nobody wanted to deal with buyouts."

The new authorization, he said, would involve other federal agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to handle programs that would pay for flood easements.

"So you'd still be able to farm all the time, but under certain conditions, according to the plan, you might need to store water," he said.

Meanwhile, other levee and drainage districts would be able to raise their levees to a 500-year level of flood protection "so that you don't have these expensive disasters" that have occurred with greater frequency in recent years, he said.

Another component of the revamped comp plan calls for using a "water infrastructure financing program" instituted by the Corps of Engineers to provide low-cost loans to levee districts seeking to improve their levees.

Klingner also voiced support for a long-sought proposal to earmark federal funding for a plan to expand and modernize seven locks and dams on the Mississippi and Illinois rivers, including Lock and Dam 21 in Quincy.

Klingner said there is "huge bipartisan support" for the Navigation and Ecosystem Restoration Program (NESP), but federal funds need to be appropriated for anything to be accomplished.

"As always, we're trying to balance flood protection, navigation and common-sense environmental improvements," Klingner said. "That was the message."

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