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Vidalia levee raised

VIDALIA — Work on raising the height of a 4.1-mile stretch of levee in Vidalia started in February to help give residents better flood control.

The project will raise the levee by four feet and upgrade the flood grade from 100 years to 500 years at a cost of approximately $8 million, Fifth Louisiana Levee Board President Ronald Minsky said.

Minsky said there will be three areas of construction in the parish, with the area between Giles Island and the mainland just north of Vidalia being the first location.

“They just built a haul road there to move their equipment back and forth to work on the levee,” he said.

The project will then move south bordering Louisiana 131.

Work on the second site at the levee should start this summer, Minsky said.

Minsky said while initial work has began, the project has stopped due to the height of the Mississippi River.

“Right after they built the haul road they had to move everything back out,” he said. “The river is rising fast.”

Minsky said the river is at approximately 25 feet, but that level is slated to reach 40 feet by March 15.

“That is 15 feet in a very short amount of time,” he said. “If it rains like it is predicted, we are going to be looking at a full flood stage river, and that is something to be concerned about.”

Minsky said other than the height of the river, there have been no other problems, and work can begin again once the river level begins to calm.

“Everything has been going smoothly,” he said. “We are just going to keep our fingers crossed that the river cooperates.”

Minsky said the project should take three to five years to complete, depending on the height of the river.

Minksy also said the project will meet with another levee enlargement that is currently going on south of Vidalia.

“It has been ongoing for two years down there,” he said

With construction going on to raise levee heights in multiple areas, Minsky said the Fifth Levee District is also working to certify all the levees in the district.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency certifies the levees and Minsky said the Fifth District has been working to meet new qualifications FEMA decided upon over two years ago.

“After all the hurricanes they decided to make a few changes,” he said. “We started working on them before they even changed the standards.”

Minsky said the district has already received a walking inspection from FEMA, and the district is waiting to see if everything meets the right qualifications.

“We do not know when we will hear word back,” he said. “I know everything we have is certifiable.”

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