Levees still need repair months after floodwater recedes

By Keith Boles - bio | email feedback

POCAHONTAS, AR (KAIT) - Months after floodwaters have receded, the levees in Pocahontas still need repair.

This Spring, floodwaters tore 13 holes in levees around Pocahontas. Homes, businesses and farm land was flooded through these breaks and it seemed another flood season could be at hand with out repairs being made.

But now in just a matter of weeks nearly all the holes and the problem areas are almost fixed.

Five weeks ago I couldn't have stood where I stood today  unless I was able to fly somehow. This massive hole had let enough water in to wash off the topsoil. But now unless you knew what had been there you would have never known the levee broke. Along side the repaired levee, huge tractors pulled blades as the washed-out field was re-leveled.

Levee board member Don Cox looked out at the newly-repaired levee as the rain began to fall.

"We had 13 breaks in the levee, 13 separate contracts. 3 of them were really major and this is one of the three of them."

The biggest question with levee repairs was where was the money coming from? Cox says a special 3 dollar and 40 cent property tax on protected farm land secured a loan.

Cox, "40 Thousand acres in Lawrence County and 20 Thousand acres in Randolph County and we expect that loan to be paid off in 5 years." Cox said there is already a Fifty cent tax to maintain the levees, that will continue as before.

Repairs are nearly complete with 42 foot hole still being worked. That hole was so large that a lot of fill dirt had to be brought in just to fill up what the water washed out. Contractors say plans are to seed and straw the levees within the week.

Closer to the town the area around the Riverside Living Center they have constructed an "L" shaped  berm.

Bob Ignico with the housing authority said that area had flooded from the back to that's why the berm was created and placed where it was.

Ignico, "If the levee ever breaches again, we know we can protect our property. So this point in time we have put that levee across the back of our property and along the side to match the original levee."

That levee will also have a drain that can be closed off if flooding occurs.

A temporary levee next to the Robil addition is also slated for replacement. Very shortly the temporary berm which was thrown up to stop the flooding will be replaced by something more permanent which will run along the road then turn and head North toward the river.

I asked Ben DeClerk an engineer on the repair project, if he thought the levees could fail again?

DeClerk, "Anything's possible. You know the flood we got this year exceeded the design of the levee so with or without deficiencies it probably would have failed anyway it just exceeded the design."

Only time and high water will decide what happens next.

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