Rend Lake's Sure Stimulated

The Southern
April 9, 2010
BENTON - U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin got to see the results of the federal stimulus program firsthand Thursday as he toured Rend Lake, the recipient of a $26 million federal investment care of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

What he saw was a flurry of activity as workers labored on some of the many projects funded by the stimulus money such as infrastructure and campground improvements, bike trails and replacement of the visitors center and administration offices.

At a news conference in the South Marcum Recreational Area, Durbin said the scene was the perfect illustration of what the stimulus was intended to do for the economy.

"What we faced just a few months ago was one of the worst recessions America had seen in 80 years. When the president took office we were losing 800,000 jobs a month. He came to Congress and said we've got to turn this around and put people back to work. Let's invest in projects that are going to pay back for years to come," Durbin said. "It worked. We put people to work - up to 200 people right here - and it's an investment that will pay off for generations to come."

The shovel-ready U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Rend Lake projects will improve on the 40-year-old facilities while providing jobs for local residents, he said.

"Years of budget cuts had resulted in a significant amount of backlogged maintenance projects and Rend Lake was struggling to keep up with tourist demand. Shorter hours and fewer open campgrounds equaled fewer visitors and less revenue, locals told me," Durbin said. "When we can create jobs by investing in treasures like Rend Lake, that's the best of both worlds."

When the projects are completed, the lake, which provides flood control and water supplies for dozens of area communities, will be an even more "amazing tourism opportunity," he said, providing benefits for businesses and communities around the lake.

Steve Hackstadt, a union carpenter from Nashville, said the work couldn't come at a better time for him.

"I was laid off about three months when the recession hit. After that I had a few things, but this was a boom, actually," he said.

Dave Lake of Lake Contracting in Addieville has about 30 people working on two projects at the lake. He expects the work to last another two months.

"It's been very slow," he said. "We're definitely glad to have the work."
Col. Tom O'Hara, commander of the St. Louis Army Corps District, said the investment pays off by improving critical infrastructure and putting people back to work, as well as helping to stimulate the economy in the short and long terms.

With 3 million visitors a year, the lake is an important driver for the local economy, he said.

"It's creating work, immediate work for the people in the area," O'Hara said. "The infrastructure investment will make us more efficient in the long run. We're going to have less maintenance costs. We're going to have less flood damage. This area truly is an economic engine for the communities that surround us. By investing in this infrastructure we're going to be better able to provide services to the people in this area and continue to draw people into the area for years to come."