River affects walk to Capri

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 19, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; Visitors to the Isle of Capri Casino can combine exercise with entertainment these days.

As the Mississippi River&8217;s water level drops, the boat moves

farther and farther from shore, making the walk to get in longer and longer.

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But it won&8217;t go much farther, General Manager Jack Sours said Friday.

The Isle sits on an area of the river that has been dredged out to control the water level, he said, and even if the river did continue to drop, that spot would stay pretty close to where it is.

&8220;It&8217;s been engineered that way,&8221; Sours said.

&8220;When they opened the casino, they dredged and planned pretty well.&8221;

Isle of Capri management does watch river levels closely anyway, Sours said.

&8220;We check the river gauges up river and everything is telling us it&8217;s going to start to come back up,&8221; he said.

The boat is out about as far as they want it, he said, and the walk is long enough to affect customers.

The boat is moored to the shore. When the water drops, they let out more line and float it further out, Sours said. With the water the lowest it&8217;s been in recent memory, the entrance into the casino now includes a walk past the end of newer concrete and onto an older surface. The ramps into the boat are extended as far as they&8217;ll go and wooden planks are added for people to walk on. The whole setup is aligned with safety standards, Sours said.

And the casino offers transportation up and down the ramp by vehicle. Currently the number of riders is up, he said.

For those who walk, the distance and the incline is noticeable, Sours said.

&8220;They certainly notice the hill. They talk about it,&8221; he said.

&8220;It takes away from our business.&8221;

Things probably will get better, then worse again according to river level predictions, said Wayland Hill, a civil engineering technician in the water control management section of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Vicksburg.

The river is on the rise right now, he said Friday, after bottoming out last weekend at 7.6 on the Natchez gauge. Flood stage is 48, and normal for this time of year is 13.5.

Saturday the gauge was up to 11.09.

Hill said the river should reach 11.5 this week, but will then start dropping again.

&8220;It&8217;ll ease back down again depending on how much rain we get until the first of November,&8221; Hill said.

&8220;September and October are some of the worst months (normally).&8221;

On Sept. 4, it&8217;s lowest point, the river was seven feet below normal.