Residents may have to foot bill for levee repairs

By Keith Boles - bio | email feedback

POCAHONTAS, AR (KAIT) - With the possibility of a lot of rain moving up from the gulf, rivers could rise again, but 13 breaks still riddle the levees in Randolph County.

FEMA  and the Army Corp of Engineers said the county will not get money to repair the gaps, so residents may have to foot the bill.

Levee board member Danny Ellis showed me the biggest and most expensive breaks that had to be repaired. "West of us here and North is about a 200 Thousand dollar breach and there's one on the South end about a 200 - 250 Thousand dollar breach."

It will take millions to repair the 13 breaks in the levees and the levee commission just doesn't have that kind of money.

Ellis, "There's gonna have to be a tax put on there's no way around it. FEMA won't give us any help, Corp won't give us any help, all they'll give us is technical support."

The levee was built in 1938 at a cost of 83 thousand dollars. Just one hole alone, the one they call 41 foot, could cost half a million to repair. Ellis said the levee did it's job. He said these hard floods in 2008 and 2011 are more than nearly any levee could handle. "Now," he says. "We need to get it back within standards."

Ellis, "We need Three Dollars and 40 cents an acre to repair the levee and 50 cents which is already in place to maintain the levee."

One possible source of quick funding is a loan.

Ellis, "We're hoping to have a bond from the NRCS, we're hoping to hear something from them in the next few days."

There have been preliminary surveys done by contractors, around the breaks little white flags with FOX contracting dot the land. Ellis says the levees could be repaired by early winter. It's just a matter of finding the money.

"We've got to be able to pay the contractors or we don't need to start this really."

Several ponds left when the waters receded will need to be pumped out, Ellis says he hopes to start that next week.

"I get phone calls every day asking about the levees. " Ellis says, he feels the concerns of the farmers having been one for years.

Ellis, "I know that they have millions of dollars invested and we're trying to do everything we can to help them out."

I asked Ellis if the money was to suddenly be available, how soon could repairs begin?

He turned and looked at the gaping hole in the levee. "Well it would take till Tuesday since they are not allowed to move their equipment on a holiday. They could start on it on Tuesday."

There will be 2 public meetings on the 9th of September. There will be discussion on the proposed tax to repair the levees.

The first will be at the Randolph County Sheriff's Department court room starting at 9 a.m.

The second will be at the Lawrence County Courthouse courtroom starting at 11 a.m.

The public is invited to share their comments at either session.

Copyright 2011 KAIT. All rights reserved.