County looking to offset costs of damage from 2011 high waters

Published 12:13 am Thursday, October 16, 2014

NATCHEZ — Adams County officials are gathering information in a bid to convince the Federal Emergency Management Agency to offset costs from flood damages three years ago.

County officials say the May 2011 high water event — during which the Mississippi River reached a record 61.9 feet — undermined a box culvert on Jackson Point Road, causing it to ultimately collapse and make the road impassable.

While the county has been reimbursed for other flood-related expenses, the hang-up that has stalled the $1 million repair is the damage didn’t become evident until after the county had submitted its flood worksheet to FEMA, County Administrator Joe Murray said.

Email newsletter signup

“The box culvert had separated due to scouring and eddying of the water under the structure during the flood,” Murray said. “The only way we could have identified that that had taken place after the flood was to send a diver down there — there’s always water running through there.”

The issue of Jackson Point funding came up again this week as the county board of supervisors discussed financing of several necessary infrastructure projects. While they tentatively committed to financing some repairs, the board held off on Jackson Point because they were waiting for a mid-week conference call with FEMA about the road.

Located in the county’s extreme south, the Jackson Point area is one of the most remote in Adams County.

But while no residents live in the area, members of the board of supervisors have in the past said access is important because millions of dollars worth of agricultural planting is done in the area.

The county has previously asked to amend its original FEMA emergency reimbursement worksheet from the 2011 flood to include the damage to Jackson Point Road, but that request was denied. The process is now in appeal.

But Adams County Board of Supervisors President Darryl Grennell said all indicators point to FEMA being receptive to looking at the issue again.

The agency has requested the county send all work orders for the road prior to the flood to demonstrate the work was not needed at that time.

“For them to request that information tells me they are willing to revisit this deal and ultimately — I hope — they will overturn their original decision,” Grennell said.

Murray said the work orders will show the culvert was stable before the flood.

“The only things we did out there was some grading and surface maintenance,” he said. “We never did any culvert work. We’re also going to get some information from (the county engineer) to show he had taken a trip down there after the flood and found the damage.”

Some access was possible until this year, but the road has now completely collapsed. At one point earlier this year, agriculture producers used a temporary board road similar to those used in the oil field to access the area.

Murray said for the fall harvest the county road crew has done some dirt work to make the area temporarily passable.

“It is passable now, but the next water that comes through there and inundates that road, it is going to wash out again,” he said.

Grennell said two options — a $1 million box culvert replacement or an approximately $800,000 bridge — have been presented for the fix.

“The engineers have determined that a bridge replacement might be the better option,” he said. “One of the benefits of history is we don’t have to go back and make the same mistakes again.”