Levee Problems Lead To Problems For Residents and Leaders

POCAHONTAS, AR (KAIT)- "Thanks to the Lord it didn't get into the rice, but it could have. That probably would have put us out of business."

Farmers like Kevin Weitkamp are upset that 20 years of hard work came so close to being destroyed.

"We were told that the levee wasn't broken, that we needed to relax. So, we didn't levee anything up, and it was waist deep within a matter of hours," said Weitkamp.

In pictures you can see water got nearly four feet deep on his farm.

Now he's blaming his local levee district for not doing their jobs.

"They tore part of the levee down to build an assisted living community, and that's where one of the breaks occurred. They really have no clue as to what to do with the levee," said Weitkamp.

And chance would only have it that the very senior living community which was built in the territory of the levee was among the neighborhoods completely flooded out.

"It's very upsetting to have to move. We've lost everything. We don't have much to begin with, but we've lost what we have."

Residents like Sarah Wicker and her husband say they can't believe someone would remove part of the levee.

"I feel somebody was wrong to do that," said Wicker.

And how this happened is also a mystery to those who are now working to try and correct the problem.

"I have no knowledge of it. I have visited with Mayor Crocker, and under his administration he doesn't know what happened to that levee. At this point we don't know, we don't know."

County Judge David Jansen says for now he's just concerned about flood relief.

And with more heavy rain in the forecast, the focus is now turning to the levees, and making sure they are re-enforced so that water doesn't spill into these communities again.

On Thursday Judge Jensen met with the Army Corps of Engineers and has worked out a plan of action.

"They have determined that on our small breach we can actually put a portable dam up, and I have requested 1,000 feet coming in from Minnesota from the Corps of Engineers," said Jensen.

That dam will be eight feet tall and should keep water from breaching the current levee system.

And he says as far as the past, for now it's the past.

"There's going to be plenty of time to worry about that, but my number one priority is getting the problem fixed and then we'll deal with the rest," said Jensen.

And for residents like Weitkamp he's glad the levee is finally getting some attention.

"It wasn't maintained. It wasn't kept up, and now it's time to maintain it, fix it, and fix it right," said Weitkamp.

Construction on the temporary dam in Pocahontas is set to begin Friday afternoon.

Story ideas or comments?  Email Will at wcarter@kait8.com.