Modesto's plans to build a marquee park on the Tuolumne River received a $350,000 boost from spending bills Congress passed last week.
Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, sponsored the earmark for the Tuolumne River Regional Park, a joint project for Modesto, Ceres and Stanislaus County.
The money, expected to come sometime in 2010, will ensure that work continues at the park despite the budget crunch experienced by all three working on the site.
"We've been at a standstill for about the last year," said Modesto Parks and Recreation Director Julie Hannon. "This is one of the funding sources that we were hoping for."
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The park is a long-term, 550-acre project that is expected to cost $22 million. About $4.8 million of work has gone into the park, including money from the city, county and state grants.
Most of the park improvements have been on the 90-acre "gateway parcel" near the Ninth Street Bridge.
The money in Cardoza's earmark is intended to pay to create trails and build a bridge over Dry Creek at Confluence Point.
Cardoza last week put a spotlight on $23.6 million in earmarks he helped steer to the San Joaquin Valley in the spending bills. The largest single item will deliver $10 million next year to support ozone emission reduction efforts by the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.
The earmarks "provide a significant and direct means of improving the quality of life for our residents," Cardoza said in describing the projects. "At the same time, these appropriations are in keeping with the budget resolutions passed by Congress and do not add a dime to the deficit."
Congress last week passed a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill. It includes some $3.9 billion in disclosed earmarks — often called "pork" by critics — according to Taxpayers for Common Sense, a budget watchdog group.
Other projects supported in the spending bills include $500,000 to help Ceres extend sewer lines, $897,000 for flood control efforts in San Joa- quin County and $341,000 for an Orestimba Creek flood protection program in western Stanislaus County.
Bee Assistant City Editor Adam Ashton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2366.