Parish flood costs covered

Published 12:07 am Saturday, August 20, 2011

ERIC SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT The remainder of the Hesco Bastion instant levees rest, nicely folded, on the Vidalia Riverfront Friday afternoon. The parish received the needed federal approval to receive reimbursements for repairs.

VIDALIA — With clean-up work on the Vidalia Riverfront coming to an end, Concordia Parish officials had another reason to smile Thursday when President Obama declared Louisiana a major federal disaster area.

Executive officer of operations for disaster recovery with the Louisiana Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness James Clark said the declaration will allow federal assistance for the repair of infrastructure damaged by the levees.

“Any permanent work needed on roads, buildings, bridges or any public infrastructure will be covered,” he said.

Clark said the declaration will qualify Concordia Parish under emergency measures A through G for disaster recovery.

“This is only for public infrastructure, and it will pay 75 percent of the damages that were incurred during the flood,” he said.

The City of Vidalia was previously declared under a “category B” emergency measure, meaning it could be reimbursed for any protective measures it has taken against the flood, including Hesco Bastion instant levee placement and removal, Clark said.

“The parish is also getting reimbursed for 75 percent of their flood fighting expenses,” he said.

The city already received $684,000 for preparation expenses from the Federal Emergency Management Agency earlier this month, and Mayor Hyram Copeland said the additional help through the declaration is much needed.

“This gives us an opportunity to repair our streets and parking facilities on the riverfront,” he said. “It is going to have a major impact on that.”

Copeland said many portions of the roads and parking facilities on the riverfront have buckled up, creating problems.

Copeland said the declaration will also help with some minor structural damage to the riverwalk.

The mayor said the city is still checking to see if there is any structural damage to any buildings on the riverfront, and that, as of yet, none has been found.

“We are still waiting to get with our engineer to check on this,” he said. “If we do find any problems, we are going to report them immediately.”

Copeland said cleanup on the riverfront has been going extremely well, and that in the next three to four weeks, the whole process should be complete.

“We have all the Hesco baskets removed, so now all we have to do finish removing all the sand,” he said.

As the cleanup has continued, Copeland said he has seen life on the riverfront slowly start to return to normal.

“They are booking events for the convention center, all the parking lots are full and you are seeing people walking in and out of every building,” he said. “I have been amazed at how fast this whole process has gone.”