Pocahontas levees 75 percent restored, up to ACE standards

A year ago the levees around Pocahontas were full of holes, casting millions of gallons of water onto fields and houses.
A year ago the levees around Pocahontas were full of holes, casting millions of gallons of water onto fields and houses.

POCAHONTAS, AR (KAIT) - In 2011 500 year flood waters took out large chunks of the North and South levee's around Pocahontas. Nearly all the holes and washouts have been repaired but a few things remain to be done.

We caught up with Randolph County Judge David Jansen and Running Water Levee Board Chairman Danny Ellis on Stone road. The two were watching dump trucks and a road grader hard at work.

Jansen, "We're re-building the road where it went over the levee and it got washed away." Jansen pointed out that the grader belonged to him, the dump trucks to another county. "Our road department and Lawrence county has partnered with us and we're fixing the two road crossings down here on the South levee."

About 3 miles to the North another road crossing was being re-tiled after being washed out as well.

The North levees have been repaired, and graded. Although it looks higher, the levees remain the same.

Ellis, "3 foot over the hundred year flood. They will be just exactly as they were built in 1938."

Not everybody is happy with the repairs being done and are asking the question. "Why don't you just leave it alone?"

Sherman Stone lives about a quarter mile up from the ongoing repairs. His house had about 4 foot of water in it during the 2011 floods. Stone said the South levee repairs aren't worth it.

Stone, "If it happens again there goes my house again. My son, he farms all down in here. He's done give up and moved out." Stone says the breaks in the South levee would funnel water back to the river instead of turning the water back North.

Also the levees are being stripped of vegetation. The South levees especially are heavily covered in trees. Stone says he thinks the timber should stay because the roots help hold it together.

Stone, "Leave it like it is. I mean they aren't helping a thing by taking the timber off it."

Judge Jansen said the Army Corp of Engineers has conducted a new study that says tree roots actually provide channels for water to work it's way through the levees. He said there should be vegetation on the dry looking North levees.

Jansen, "We've had extremely dry weather but the contractor that's doing all the work on the levee is still responsible to get some kind of cover on it by winter."

A tax on farm acreage in Lawrence and Randolph counties is paying for the major levee repairs and upkeep of the same. The road repairs are funded by a grant.

There will nearly be hundreds of tons of sand dumped to build up the road bed to the right height.

Ellis, "It would cost way more money than we could ever raise to fix this levee like it needs to be."

Judge Jansen says the repairs have to be done. It's more than just 9 miles of piled dirt.

"It protects 65 thousand acres in two counties, Randolph and Lawrence. If we left it like it is then nobody could borrow any money because they couldn't get flood insurance."

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