Farmers call to replace bridge for flood relief

BONO, AR (KAIT) – Heavy rainfall and the rising levels on the Cache River have created flooding for many local farmers, but a few of them in Craighead County say there's something upstream preventing them from getting any relief.

Several farmers say a bridge made from old railroad tankers near Sedgwick has caught debris and backed up the river, and they now want to see it gone.

"We're just devastated by the amount of water," said farmer Cleo Watkins.

Watkins would have planted 200 acres of rice in a field near Bono, but he never got the chance this year because of all the water. He has even had to spend the past three days pumping water off his 140-acre bean field, which his crop consultant Lamar Faught said may be past saving.

"There's pumps going up and down this river trying to pump water off beans," Faught said. "There's thousands of gallons of diesel fuel being burned just trying to get rid of this water."

Watkins says the heavy rainfall recently has made his fields flood and the Cache River swell. Not helping matters, he claims, is the bridge located upstream from his farm on Lawrence County Road 717 near Sedgwick.

"The river is silted in [there]," he said, "and it's like running water through a garden hose."

Watkins has gotten a group of 10 Craighead County farmers together that plan to ask Lawrence County judge, Dale Freeman, to replace the bridge. They say doing so would help lower the Cache River one or two feet. While that may seem like an insignificant amount to some, Watkins says every little bit helps.

"We just need the river to go back to its original intent with the original flow. That's all we're asking," he said. "We're not asking for anything that's out of the ordinary."

County Judge Freeman was unavailable for comment on camera Tuesday, but he did speak to Region 8 News about this issue by phone. He said Lawrence County does not have the money to put in a new bridge in this location. He, however, did say that he would like to partner with Craighead County to work on a project in the area similar to what's going on in Jackson County, where crews are working to remove a logjam.

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