Vidalia to use alternative plan to address flood on riverfront
Published 1:26 am Friday, January 1, 2016
VIDALIA — The City of Vidalia will use an alternative plan to protect the businesses in the riverfront district than it did during record high water in 2011.
Projections from the Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center say the river will rise to 60 feet by Jan. 17, 1.95 feet shy of the record watermark that inundated the riverfront in 2011 but nonetheless well above the 48-foot flood stage at Vidalia.
If the water reaches the forecasted height, the crest would be the second-highest recorded level in history.
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The new plan for the riverfront, discussed after a meeting of the board of aldermen in which the city officially declared a state of emergency in advance of a rising Mississippi River, is to build a ring of Hesco baskets around a portion of the riverfront area.
In 2011, the first time Hesco baskets were used, the baskets — which act as a miniature levee — were built around the individual buildings. The new plan is to build a temporary levee on the northern end of the riverfront and run Hesco baskets along the riverfront to just south of Promise Hospital and then connect them to the main levee.
Mayor Hyram Copeland said the new configuration would allow the businesses to stay open even as the river rises, with access coming from Riverside Drive. The baskets will attach to the levee south of Promise Hospital because the floodwaters crept up the riverfront from the south in 2011.
Approximately 1,000 Hesco baskets were delivered in Vidalia Thursday, and another 1,000 are expected Saturday.
During the board of aldermen’s meeting Thursday, three of the aldermen — Ricky Knapp, Mo Saunders and Vernon Stevens — voted to authorize the mayor to take “any and all actions necessary to protect life, health, property and public peace” in the face of the rise. Aldermen Tron McCoy and Jon Betts were not present.
The vote, along with the declaration of emergency, follow a day after the State of Louisiana and two days after Concordia Parish officially declared a state of emergency.
“Things have been moving pretty fast,” Copeland said. “We first learned about the situation about 2 a.m. Monday morning, and since then we have been in constant contact with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and all our state and local agencies.”
Copeland said he believes the city is better prepared and has more time to prepare than it did in the 2011 high water event.
“Everybody is working together, and the end result is we are prepared, we are ready, and we are going to make sure we implement these issues immediately,” he said. “I want to assure the people of Vidalia we are on top of this, if there are any change in the direction we are going we will notify them immediately.
“Our biggest problem in 2011 was rumors, and I think this time we are better prepared as far as that is concerned. At this time I don’t foresee any danger whatsoever as far as the town is concerned, just some flooding on the riverfront.”
Copeland said anyone who has medical or accessibility issues and is concerned about what may happen should contact the Vidalia Police Department — which has a program to check in with people in those situations — at 318-336-5254.
“Nobody is to be left out,” he said.
The mayor said he would likewise be personally available to any resident who has questions at 601-807-4286, and Saunders said anyone who needs to get in contact with her should call 601-431-9998.
Stevens said all indications are the parish’s levee systems will hold.
“We are going to prepare for the worst and hope we don’t get any worse than we did in 2011,” he said.
Saunders likewise expressed optimism in the face of the flood.
“I think we were all very educated in 2011, and we have learned a lot,” she said. “The city and its supervisors are experienced enough that I think they can handle anything they handled in 2011.”