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Kings Point: County to continue studying levee, bridge

[04/03/01] Warren County supervisors said Monday they will meet with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers personnel to discuss continuing a feasibility study of a proposed levee to Kings Point Island, but will not abandon their plans to build a bridge.

About 30 people attended the board meeting Monday to show support for the levee they believe would also provide flood protection in northern Warren and southern Issaquena counties. Landowner Brad Bradway was one of the supporters of the proposal who asked supervisors to accept $200,000 awarded to the county by the Legislature for a two-year feasibility study.

“Take advantage of this opportunity that has been dropped on us,” Bradway said.

Gov. Ronnie Musgrove signed a bill in March that provides $200,000 toward the county’s cost for a federal study. The study would take about two years and would have to be complete before construction could begin.

The study has been estimated to cost about $750,000. The county would have to fund half, or about $100,000 in addition to the state money.

Construction of the levee that would connect with the existing Mississippi River levee and would run south along the river to near the mouth of the Yazoo River is estimated to cost $5.2 million to $8 million. Warren County’s share of that cost would be 35 percent with the rest coming from federal sources.

While supervisors voted unanimously to meet with Corps officials and discuss moving forward with the study, they voted 3-2 to continue work toward the construction of a bridge at the Mississippi River levee near Eagle Lake Road to provide access to the area.

“We owe it to the taxpayers to be prepared with alternatives,” said board president Richard George.

Overall, the idea would be to restore year-round access to Kings Point, generally west of the Vicksburg Harbor, which was cut off when the Yazoo Diversion Canal was excavated a century ago. Since then, service has been by ferry, except when conditions have prohibited.

George was joined by District 4 Supervisor Bill Lauderdale and District 1 Supervisor David McDonald in defeating a motion to stop engineering work on the island in preparation of constructing a bridge and putting all the emphasis on a levee.

“Eventually, we are going to have to decide, and I think we need to be 110 percent behind the levee,” said District 3 Supervisor Charles Selmon.

Edward Douglas, chairman of the Warren County Farm Bureau Flood Committee, said that by continuing to work on the bridge proposal the county is wasting money that could be used on the levee project.

“The levee is something that will benefit all of Warren County,” he said. “The bridge won’t.”

Board members also agreed to seek an opinion from the Attorney General’s Office regarding the county’s legal rights to build a levee. Supervisors have said a levee district would have to be set up to provide funds to maintain the structure.

The only access to Kings Point when the Mississippi reads 18 feet or higher is the ferry operation that now costs county taxpayers about $250,000 annually to operate.

When the county balked at keeping the ferry going, landowner Raymond May and others sued Warren County, obtaining a Chancery Court order that the county continue ferry services.

“We know what the cost is to operate the ferry 15 hours a day; if we go back to 24 hours, it will cost the county another $100,000,” May said.

In other matters, supervisors:

Increased funding to the Warren County Veterans Services from $1,200 to $1,900 a month after the Red Cross cut its allocation.

Accepted the district attorney’s report for information.

The Warren County Board of Supervisors will meet again at 9 a.m., April 16 at the Warren County Courthouse.