Levee repairs, preventions still ongoing

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 19, 2012

VIDALIA — Fifth Levee District President Reynold Minsky says the flood of 2011 had two lessons: a flood fight takes 24 hours a day and all of the people you have, and you need relief wells along the levee system.

“I don’t know of anything that we could have done that would have made our flood fight easier other than the relief wells; those would have relieved our pain,” he said.

Now, a year after the record-setting 61.9-foot Mississippi River crest, there’s work to be done for future flood fights. That includes repairs to the levee system for damage caused by the flood and the construction of relief wells, Minsky said.

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The wells are 90-feet deep and have a stainless steel screen across the bottom, and it essentially pre-empts sand boils by not allowing pressure to build up under a levee. Sand boils are dangerous because they displace the soil under a levee, creating instability in the levee foundation.

“The well allows the water to come out of the ground from under the levee and percolate out of those wells, and (the screen) holds the sand back, so it relieves the pressure,” Minsky said.

The levee district has between 600 and 700 relief wells — each costs approximately $2,500 to install — and more are being built, he said.

Following the flood, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers inspected the entire levee system and identified the areas where repairs were needed, Corps Assistant Area Engineer Tyrone Crear said.

Repairs to the levee system include repairing ground slides that happened during or following the flood. This year’s lack of a high-water period has helped prolong the repair period.

“When it is dry, they will take the dirt out of those slides, spread it out on the berm, treat it with cement and then pack it back in there,” Minsky said. “Generally that takes care of the problem.”

In addition to the repair work to the levee system, Crear said levee widening and raising projects — which were actually contracted before the flood — are ongoing.

“We have two construction contractors working on the levee right now,” Crear said. “One is working on the reach of the levee right north of Vidalia and the other one is working to the south of Vidalia. The contractor working there in Vidalia has a lot more work to do, but the contractor south of Vidalia has most of the work done.”

Minsky said all of the problems that had been identified are being addressed.