Nearly 100 turn out to fight bridge to Kings Point

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 4, 2000

Kings Point farmers, saying they are tired of seeing their livelihoods disappear under a wall of muddy water, turned out in force Thursday night to oppose a bridge project they say would pre-empt proposals to build a flood control levy for them and others in the South Delta.

Nearly 100 farmers were in the courtroom of the Circuit Court to have a say about the Warren County Board of Supervisors’ recent approval of a $1.8 million bridge that will replace the outdated Kings Point ferry.

Buddy Douglas, a farmer who helped organize the meeting, said a road built on top of a levee, as studied by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, would be a better option for access to Kings Point.

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“A bridge will only provide access,” Douglas said. “A levee will provide access and keep as much as 18 inches of water off this area.”

Douglas said representatives of the Corps of Engineers had told him a levee project, which would cost $5 million to $8 million, would only be feasible if it was built as a replacement for the ferry system.

Douglas said a bridge, if built, would change cost-benefit calculations for the Corps, and could ruin the area’s chances for a levee project later.

But Richard George, president of the county board, said the county had gotten no assurances from the Corps even without a bridge.

“Our responsibility is access, we’re not in the flood control business,” George said. “You people that are affected by the water certainly are entitled to relief, but in the meantime, we have the obligation to provide access.”

Kings Point is west of the Vicksburg harbor. Once solidly a part of Warren County, it was cut off by excavation of the Yazoo Diversion Canal a century ago. For most of the years since, access has been by ferry even though land access is generally available except at higher river stages.

The competing proposals are:

Keeping the ferry in operation at a local cost of about $322,000 per year.

Building a bridge.

Elevating the existing low-water access that would have the addition benefit, under some conditions, of lessening flooding not just on Kings Point but all of the lower Delta.

The last option is the most expensive, requiring a 35 percent local match of federal dollars, an amount that might be available, in part, through state or levee district sources.

In a decision last year, the Chancery Court required the county to maintain access to the island. Only a handful of families live on the island, but farmers and loggers transport their goods through the area, and it is a popular spot for hunters.

The county alone could not afford the $2.8 million of the county match for the levee project, and the tax base in the area would not support maintaining a levee, George said.

Supervisors Charles Selmon and Michael Mayfield, who have supported the Corps study, disagreed.

“We’re talking about people’s lives here, we’re talking about the livelihood of people in this area,” Mayfield said. “I’ve asked this board to take every step possible to promote this project.”

Landowner Raymond May said the strength of the current during flooding is likely too strong for any bridge to withstand.

“I frankly would be scared to death that we wouldn’t have a bridge up there after the first year,” May said. “These five supervisors have the authority to pursue this levy and do something that will help people long after we’re all gone.”