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County will help fund impact study on levee project

[03/15/01] An environmental impact study by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could begin this summer on the proposed levee project on Kings Point Island.

Members of the Warren County Board of Supervisors told about 45 landowners from the north part of the county Tuesday night that money would be made available to match state funds for the study when the Legislature released it’s share for the project.

“As soon as we get the money, the study will get started,” said District 1 Supervisor David McDonald.

The Mississippi House passed a bill last month to provide $200,000 to study the proposed levee in Warren County. The Warren County Farm Bureau Flood Committee invited the five supervisors to a public hearing to update concerned residents about the project.

“The county has two options,” said Edward Douglas Jr., chairman of the Farm Bureau Flood Committee “But the ferry has got to go.”

Supervisors have been working with the Corps for about two years on the project to replace a court-ordered ferry operation to the island. The levee also would provide #flood protection to the island and some other farmland in north Warren County.

Another option the county has looked at is building a bridge to the island at the Mississippi River levee near Eagle Lake Road. Early cost estimates of a bridge to provide access to the island were about $1 million.

In the meantime, the ferry provides the only access to the island when the river rises above 18 feet. The operation costs Warren County taxpayers about $250,000 annually to operate.

“Short of a guarantee, we must be prepared with an alternative,” said District 5 Supervisor Richard George, fielding questions about why the county was still moving forward with engineering studies for the bridge.

One farmer said the bridge idea was flawed because during the times of year when it would be under water, there would be no access to the island.

“Even Ray Charles could see that bridge will be under water,” he said.

The cost of the levee road will depend on the height of the levee. The Corps has proposed two elevations, one at the two-year flood level at a cost of $5.2 million, or at the five-year flood level at a cost of $8 million.

Warren County would have to fund 35 percent of the construction cost with the remaining portion coming from federal funds. The county’s share could be about the same as building a bridge, said District 2 Supervisor Michael Mayfield.

“If you’re going to spend $2 million of your money, why not spend it on a project that will do a tremendous amount of good and not just provide passage,” said Mayfield whose district includes the Kings area.

Supervisors were told by the Corps that an initial $100,000 in federal funding for the study had been used and that before any further work could be done on the proposal, the county would have to provide matching funds, about $300,000.

The bill authorized by the House provides $200,000 for the proposed levee project as part of an $8.1 million bond increase to the Mississippi Business Investment Act. That would still leave Warren County responsible for about $100,000 of the study.

The Senate is expected to act on the bill before the 90-day legislative session ends this month.

“The reality here is that you’ve got to have a committed Board of Supervisors for this to happen,” said District 3 Supervisor Charles Selmon.

Kings Point Island landowner Raymond May agreed that the board was not fully in support of the project.

“We’ve had problems from day one,” May said. “Mr. (Bill) Lauderdale has been against this from day one.”

Lauderdale, who represents District 4 in south Warren County, was not at the meeting.

Studies that have to be completed before work could begin on the levee project include an environmental analysis to determine the effect on wildlife, a hydrologic analysis to determine the effects on drainage and a cultural study to determine any historical significance to the land.

Federal funding for construction of the levee would have to be authorized by Congress.

“Its not going to get shot down by Congress,” May said. “We have got two very powerful senators.”

May and other landowners and interested parties sued Warren County last year, obtaining a Chancery Court order that the county continue ferry services begun when the Yazoo Diversion Canal was dug nearly a century ago.

Kings Point Island is bordered by the Mississippi River, the Yazoo River, Paw Paw Chute and Taylor Lake.