In an estimated two-and-a-half years, erosion along the banks of the Wolf River will reach the Collierville-Arlington Bridge, causing it to collapse, according to Corps data. A $9.9 million project to halt the river's erosion began last September with roughly $6 million from the Corps, the Wolf River Conservancy (WRC), and Shelby County but lacked much needed federal funding.
The U.S. House of Representatives recently approved $3.5 million for the project as part of the 2006 Water and Energy Bill. While nothing is official, Ted Fox, director of Shelby County Public Works, said he spoke with Senator Bill Frist's office last week and was told the funding would be approved.
"It's so hard in today's war climate to be able to get support for this kind of project," said Fox.
But it's a project that supporters say is necessary. According to Keith Kirkland, executive director of the WRC, the restoration project is vital to the safety of Shelby County citizens. Not only does the erosion threaten the Collierville-Arlington Bridge, which would cost $1.5 million to rebuild, it could also damage the Memphis Sands aquifer.
"As the river cuts down, it will cut into the Sands and contaminate the drinking water," said Kirkland.
If the funding is approved, it will be used to install rock weirs near the bridge. The weirs act as small dams that re-direct the river's flow away from the eroding area. The project was originally approved in 1992, and according to Jones, planned weirs would have halted erosion, but a lack of funding kept those weirs from being built.
"We weren't originally planning to install rock at the Collierville-Arlington Bridge," says Jones, "but we haven't been able to install other weirs in time, so the [erosion] has made it further than we'd planned."