Riverfront dirty work: Hesco baskets dumped, removed in Vidalia

Published 12:02 am Friday, July 29, 2011

ERIC SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT Womack and Sons Construction’s Roger Reeves removes the sand left behind from the instant levees on the Vidalia Riverfront Thursday afternoon. Construction crews are working around the clock to get the Riverfront back to normal.

VIDALIA — Those who think it is easier to tear something down than it is to put something up have never dealt with Hesco Bastion instant levees and thousands of pounds of dirt.

Vidalia saw 18,000 feet of Hesco baskets placed on the riverfront in less than a week as Mississippi River floodwaters encroached. But Womack and Sons Construction Group of Harrisonburg has been hard at work since July 18 removing the instant levees and dirt from the Vidalia Riverfront.

ERIC SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT Womack and Sons Construction’s Troy Whittington removes the remainder of the Hesco Bastion instant levees on the Vidalia Riverfront.

Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland said Womack is ahead of scheduled by one week, and the whole process should be complete in the next three to four weeks.

Email newsletter signup

“They are really doing an excellent job down there cleaning everything up,” he said.

During the first two weeks of the removal, Copeland said Womack was able to completely clear the roadways on the riverfront.

“We have access to all of the buildings from each entry point,” he said.

Copeland said the crew is now starting work at the north end of the riverfront removing the instant levees from around the Comfort Inn Suites.

“We are removing every bit of dirt and levee that was there he said. “From there we are moving south down the riverfront.”

Copeland said Promise Hospital is scheduled to have its debris removed after the hotel, followed by the city’s water wells.

Along with the debris-free roadways, Copeland said sand has been removed from around all the business entrances to avoid tracking it into other areas, a collapsed sewage line near the hotel has been repaired and the convention center’s air conditioning has been fixed.

“I am elated with what all they have been able to achieve so far,” he said.

While Vidalia has been declared under a “category B” emergency measure, meaning the parish will only be reimbursed for any protective measures it has taken against the flood, Copeland said it has yet to be declared under a “category A.”

A “category A” measure reimburses local governments for debris removal after an emergency, which would include the removal of the Hesco baskets and dirt.

Copeland said the city has been trying to get the “category A” stipulation since the floodwater started descending, but does not need it now.

“We got the approval to have the Hesco basket and dirt removal placed under the ‘category B’ measure,” he said. “We will be getting paid back for our preparations and our clean up.”

Copeland said the city is also seeking to be declared under emergency measures C though G, which all include reimbursements for any road, infrastructure or utility problems the city has to fix after the clean up.

“We are still waiting to hear back on that,” he said.

With the convention center having its first event Thursday night, and the hotel getting ready to take guests again, Copeland said the riverfront is getting back on its feet.

“We are back, and if we have learned anything from this whole ordeal it is that every piece of the riverfront is a huge asset to the community,” he said.

Copeland said the riverwalk will remain closed until all the debris removal is complete.

Copeland said the next three to four weeks will be busy at the riverfront as the removal process comes to an end.