Southwest Missouri Congressman Billy Long introduces legislation following drownings on Bull Creek in Taney County

Published: Oct. 14, 2020 at 10:18 AM CDT
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TANEY COUNTY, Mo. (KY3) - Following three drownings at a low water crossing on Bull Creek in Taney County, southwest Missouri Congressman Billy Long filed legislation asking the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to consider safety when issuing permits.

Congressman Long introduced the legislation, after becoming involved with the issues regarding the low-water bridge on Bull Creek. Three kayakers drowned, and afterwards, the U.S. Corps of Engineers found the bridge was built out of compliance. The legislation asks the Corps to determine what resources it would need to ensure inspections and safety in projects approved through its nationwide permits.

Representatives with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have said its permits only ensure stream flows and fish passage are not interrupted, and cannot ensure safety on flashy creeks.

Today, the corps sent us this statement: “It is our policy not to comment on pending legislation. What we can tell you is that the Corps of Engineers is committed to protecting the nation’s aquatic resources and navigation capacity, while allowing reasonable development through fair and balanced decisions. We will apply the same level of commitment to any future requirements if tasked.”

Landowner, Steve Johnson, is working to replace his low-water bridge. He and contractor, Tom Boyce Excavating, face three wrongful death lawsuits, one for each of the three kayakers who drowned. Family of 23-year-old Alex Ekern recently filed, claiming the owner and contractor built the low-water bridge much larger than the design the corps approved, failed to send the corps a certificate of compliance, and didn’t maintain the structure, allowing the culverts to clog. The lawsuit claims the bridge created a dam in the creek, causing a hydraulic and roller effect that caused kayakers to capsize and get trapped under water.

If Congress approves the legislation, it would give the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers up to a year to do a study on what it would cost to ensure inspections and safety. Long is working to get the legislation attached to a water resources bill. He’s hopeful passage could come this year or next year.

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