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THV Extra: Little Maumelle River debris 1 Year Later | News

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THV Extra: Little Maumelle River debris 1 Year Later
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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- The Natural State is not so natural these days.

A large dock, stuck in the riverbed, is still visible above water in the Little Maumelle River from I-430 and the Two Rivers Bridge.

The story began on May 1, 2011 when high winds caused several boats and other debris to break free from the River Valley Marina, float down river and become entangled in several places.

One year after the storm, debris still clutters the river and its shores.

Who is responsible for cleaning it up? Officials with the City of Little Rock, Pulaski County, Corps of Engineers, ADEQ, and the Arkansas Game and Fish said they are not responsible.

The solution seems to be entangled in government bureaucracy and legal delays. The new pedestrian bridge at Two Rivers Park opened in July of 2011. Pryor Robertson of Little Rock jogs along the bridge frequently, and notices the litter.

"It detracts from the beauty of the park," Robertson said.

He called the Corps of Engineers.

"They told me that some things were going on behind the scenes. They couldn't really discuss it," Robertson said.

But THV discussed it with the owners of the marina as well as city, county and federal officials.

"There was some debris in the approach of the lock chambers and we have since cleaned that up," said Laurie Driver, the Public Affairs Specialist for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Little Rock District.

But the Corps cleaned up only a portion of the debris because it was in the navigation channel.

"The Corps does not have the authority to clean up any debris that is not in the navigation channel or that could pose a hazard to the lock and dam itself," Driver added.

Therefore, the bulk of the debris remains.

A houseboat in November of 2011, floating along the banks, has since been removed.

It was paid with by tax dollars.

"That was part of our operating budget and our budget is part of the Corps of Engineers," Driver said.

The finger of blame continues to be pointed from agency to agency.

Pulaski County Public Works Director Sherman Smith said it's a difficult to determine who has jurisdiction.

"It's in a channel that the Coast Guard and the Corps of Engineers both regulate but it's out of the navigable part of the channel," Smith said.

"The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality might have a say," Driver said.

ADEQ returned the responsibility to the Corps of Engineers.

"Our authority is limited to the navigation channel," Driver added.

"It is our belief that the marina owner is responsible for removing the debris. There is no simple solution," said Bryan Day, the Assistant City Manager of Little Rock.

"I don't think this is the responsibility for the Corps of Engineers, or the city or the county for that matter. I think the marina owner should be responsible for cleaning it up," Robertson said.

The owner of the River Valley Marina said his lawyer told him not to speak on camera since they are still fighting the insurance company over the debris.

Six months ago, Gene Ludwig, attorney for the marina owners, said the insurance company, Lloyds of London, will not pay the claim. Therefore, they are suing the insurance company.

Meanwhile there is no answer.

"I'm just not sure how we're going to get it done. If I thought we had jurisdiction, and had the money to do it, we'd do it. We would have done it a long time ago," said Judge Buddy Villines of Pulaski County.

One suggestion made by an official is to file a lawsuit against River Valley Marina.

"But if you haven't got the money, what good does that do? What do you get? I don't know. If someone had the legal authority to go in and get that out of the water, whoever that is could file a lean against the property, if legally you could do that," Judge Villines said.

And unfortunately for citizens, especially nature-lovers, there is no immediate answer on the horizon.

"Basically what it boils down to is [that] I'm tired of looking at it. It takes away from the beauty of the place," Robertson added.

According to public officials it could take years if the insurance company Lloyds of London continues to drag the process out.

And with the issue of jurisdiction in that part of the river, government entities said their hands are tied. But officials urge caution to any boaters in that area of the Little Maumelle, particularly in the evening, as the debris poses a potential hazard.

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