Marion, Ky. –
Around 20 Kentucky Guard Soldiers have been helping assist with the water shortage in Crittenden County June 24-July 2.
The Soldiers with the 2061st Multi-Role Bridge Company as well as the 206th Engineer Battalion, 201st Engineer Battalion, and 103rd Chemical Battalion have been working with Kentucky Emergency Management on efficient ways to source water from local rivers due to the recent low levels from Old Town Lake, which is the town’s water source.
On July 1, Jeremy Slinker, director for Kentucky Emergency Management, flew out with Army Lt. Col. Curtis Persinger, Director of Military Operations, to view the area and meet with city leaders.
During their visit, they were able to discuss a way forward for the community and see the work the Guard Soldiers were doing first hand.
“Thanks to the might and strength of the Kentucky National Guard, and all others that are assisting in Marion, everybody's giving everything they got, I would say the situation is going well considering,” said Slinker. “We're really fighting a tough battle on keeping the city in water, which is our ultimate goal until we can get a more, although temporary, but a more substance fix to the water issue, other than hauling it or giving out bottled water.”
A state of emergency was declared for the town due to the levee containing the city’s water reservoir being compromised, and the city facing a critical shortage of water. Per order of Gov. Andy Beshear, the Kentucky National Guard was called on to provide equipment and operators to support the movement and distribution of water to mitigate the local shortage and support state and county emergency management efforts.
By June 24, the Soldiers from within the 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade began transporting water from the Trade Water River to Old City Lake, near Marion. Army Palletized Load System (PLS) vehicles transported non-potable storage tanks daily with the goal of moving up to 80,000 gallons of water to the reservoir to minimize decreasing lake concerns. In addition, bottled water was also distributed at the Old Marion Armory to town residents.
There were initially five PLS vehicles used starting out the mission but one was involved in a roll-over accident that took the truck out of commission and left one Soldier in the hospital with minor injuries.
“The Soldiers are doing their job and they know why we're here and how important the mission is that they're involved with and are all so willing to help,” said Army Capt. Brandt Cashion, Liaison Officer and officer in charge of the current mission for the Kentucky National Guard.
Having the additional help from the Guard, the city of Marion has been able to keep their residents from running out of water, even though there have been restrictions on their water usage.
The mayor of Marion is grateful for the help the National Guard is providing his town and being there for the residents.
“They've been great,” said Jared Byford, mayor of Marion. “They’ve been out at the distribution center helping get the water to the citizens and then obviously, the drivers keeping the lake as full as they can cover in the evaporation rate. We've just been so thankful for their presence.”
And that gratitude was echoed by Danielle Duncan, the city’s’ planning and zoning coordinator. She has been coordinating efforts to move and store water at the Guard’s Armory in Marion and is overseeing everything that comes in and out the armory as well as managing the local volunteers.
“It has been wonderful working with the Soldiers,” said Duncan.” They have been nothing but wonderful, respectful and I'm just glad to have them here.”
As for what will happen when the Soldiers leave off mission, it’s clear their presence will be missed.
“We're going to miss them terribly but we are very thankful for them,” added Duncan. “Hopefully we're going to get some more volunteers in here. We are going to up our days we are distributing to the community so hopefully we can just keep it going.”
Mayor Byford wanted to leave a message to the Soldiers who have been helping over the past two weeks.
“I just want to say thank you,” he said. “You can't say it enough. I felt bad today asking for more because they're given so much already but they're willing to help and willing to do whatever they can. So just thank you and appreciate everything. Thank you so much.”
As of now, the Soldiers have been asked to stay another thirty days to continue to move water into the area.