By CHRIS HARRIS, CJ Staff Writer Commonwealth Journal
Congressman Hal Rogers, on a congressional break and at his Somerset district office, made several salient points during an interview Thursday with the Commonwealth Journal.
• Despite chiding the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers early on for what he called a slow start and “overextending” the drawdown of Lake Cumberland, Rogers praised the Corps for a magnificent job in rehabilitating Wolf Creek Dam and making it safe.
• In a world shaken by terrorist activity, the veteran congressman says he feels completely safe when at home in Somerset.
• Rogers sidestepped a question and distanced himself from the growing split and raging controversy between Somerset and Pulaski County.
• There is absolutely no federal money for road development, but Rogers holds out hope for eventual completion of the proposed east-west Interstate 66, a portion of which borders Somerset and would follow Cumberland Parkway westward.
• His most prideful accomplishment during 33 years in Congress is controlling and eliminating flooding along the Cumberland River from Letcher County to Lake Cumberland.
• The Center for Rural Development, a Rogers’ brainchild, has done more than he envisioned.
• Even though Rogers is the longest serving Kentucky Republican ever elected to a federal office, he is not ready to quit.
Now, a capsule of his comments:
About Lake Cumberland, Rogers labeled “expensive” the $594 million price tag for repairing Wolf Creek Dam. He called the completed job “fantastic”.
“Lake Cumberland has put this part of Kentucky on the map. It’s known worldwide ... and created numerous jobs.”
“I think this is going to be a great year for tourism,” Rogers predicted. He obviously was referring to a 20-foot rise in the lake level since completion of what he called a “unique” project of a scope never before accomplished in the world.
On safety, Rogers responded “Oh yeah” when asked if he feels safe at home.
“The railroad does a good job guarding against problems while hauling hazard chemicals, and hazardous materials are hauled on our highways,” said Rogers. “But there is no reason to be afraid.”
Rogers obviously doesn’t want to talk about the controversial study to determine benefits of a unified city-county government in Pulaski County.
“This is a very local affair. I have no involvement in it,” said Rogers. “I’m more concerned about animosity between Republicans in Congress and the White House.”
About 1-66, a part of which borders Somerset as the eastern end of Cumberland Parkway, Rogers said he still has some hope the interstate can be completed.
“I-66 is my longtime ambition. I have confidence in the course of time it will be done,” he said.
Rogers said he had done several things of which he is proud, but probably the best is eliminating flooding along the Cumberland River.
“The Cumberland used to flood almost every year.” he recalled. Flood-control projects, including relocation of the river at points, has made flooding a thing of the past in the cities of Cumberland, Harlan, Middlesboro, Barbourville and Pineville.
Rogers also lauded the work of agencies he formed such as UNITE, PRIDE and several economic promotional groups. He praised his district offices for assisting thousands of people with Social Security and Veterans’ claims.
“Our district offices are the best operated in the country,” Rogers proclaimed.
“The Center for Rural Development is doing more than I thought it could,” said Rogers. “It has got more public use than I imagined ... it serves as an exhibition hall.”
About another term in office subject to next year’s elections,
Rogers remarked: “I’m not announcing now, but I will run again.”