Farmers say levee would protect in times like these

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 12, 2002

Local farmer Brad Bradway speaks Thursday near waters that have invaded a field of his corn north of Vicksburg off Chickasaw Road. Bradway and other farmers say that a proposed levee project near Kings Point Island would prevent such floods and help them with planting and harvesting on schedule.(The Vicksburg Paper/C. TODD SHERMAN)

[04/12/02]Warren County farmers say water creeping onto their lands from the Mississippi River is costing them thousands of dollars in lost crops this year, but that a levee project near Kings Point Island could put an end to the regular flooding.

Brad Bradway has been farming his family’s land off Chickasaw Road for nearly 23 years. In the last decade, Bradway lost crops to flood waters in seven years and said this year will be the same.

“This is a perfect example,” Bradway said Thursday as he looked over a small lake in the middle of what should be a field of corn.

“This year, that levee would have paid for itself,” he said.

Backers have been working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers since 1999 on studies to build a levee along the Mississippi River side of Kings Point Island to reduce flooding in the area. It would also provide access to Kings Point and end the need for the county’s $300,000 annual ferry expense, but the project has gotten mixed support from supervisors. If the project moves forward, it could be completed in three years.

“We need this thing and we need it now,” said Bradway, who said he expects to lose about $100,000 in crops this year because of the spring rise that is due to top out this weekend.

Flooding occurs in areas north of Vicksburg’s municipal limits along Chickasaw Road and Kings Point Island when the Mississippi River reaches levels high enough to back into the Yazoo River. Water in the Mississippi also cuts through the blow out at Pawpaw Chute, near where the Yazoo formerly dumped into the Mississippi, and adds to the water flowing south toward the city.

The combined waters from the Mississippi dumping into the Yazoo at two ends starts flooding areas along Chickasaw and Kings Point when the Mississippi gets above 36.5 feet.

Thursday, the river was at 41.5 feet and water covered nearly 350 acres of Bradway’s 1,000 acres.

“If it was just me, I’m not worth it, but look at these houses and these other farmers,” he said.

Tom McKnight has a 2,800-acre farm up the road from Bradway’s. Flood waters from the Yazoo and the Mississippi have covered about 700 acres of land that was to be planted.

The Mississippi is expected to crest Saturday at 42 feet and McKnight said he expects the water will recede in about a week, but that will be too late to plant his crop.

“I wouldn’t have a drop of water on my land if it (the levee) works the way they say it will,” McKnight said.

The proposal by the Corps is to build a 10.7-mile levee along an access road that runs through the properties of Anderson-Tully Co. and a few families on Kings Point Island. The levee road would connect with the existing Mississippi River levee near Eagle Lake Road and provide a passage to the area during high-water times.

The levee would not always protect farmland in the area only in moderate flood years such as this one. Preliminary studies say it could reduce average flood waters by about 2 feet.

Warren County District 1 Supervisor David McDonald, who has toured the area, said he believes the project would work.

“I can’t come up with a negative,” McDonald said. “And it gets us out of the ferry business.” Warren County has operated the link across the Yazoo River to Kings Point for 100 years.

One drawback that has been pointed out by critics of the project is the $5.2 million to $8 million price associated with the levee. Still others have backed an idea to build a bridge to provide access to Kings Point Island, which is estimated to cost $3 million to $4 million.

McDonald said another group that hunts in the area would prefer to see no change because it would disturb the habitat there.

Last year, the board of supervisors had voted to move forward with building the bridge, but that project has been put on hold since the county received $200,000 from the state for a Corps feasibility study of the levee project, said District 2 Supervisor Michael Mayfield, whose district includes Kings Point and Chickasaw.

“My main concern right now is that we finish the study,” said Mayfield, who has been an outspoken supporter of the levee project.

The study is expected to take about a year to complete and construction of the levee would take about two years, but until then, Bradway and other farmers in the area expect to lose crops regularly to flood waters.

One question Bradway said family and friends often ask is why he stays.

“This is family land and I have a family obligation here,” Bradway said. “But, believe me, I ask myself that question a lot.”