Kings Point: Decision of levee now left to county

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 23, 2004

[6/23/04]A proposal to build a flood control levee on Kings Point would be feasible by federal standards, but Warren County supervisors must now decide if they want to provide the $1.3 million match to protect about 5,100 acres of timber and farm land.

The project was first proposed in 2000 by Raymond May, an accountant who farms on Kings Point. The levee, May says, would have the dual benefits of eliminating the need for Kings Point Ferry and reducing backwater flood levels in portions of Vicksburg and Warren County.

Kings Point is located west of downtown Vicksburg, and the only access during most of the year is the ferry operated at county expense. When the Yazoo River Diversion Canal was dug 101 years ago, most of the land routes to the timber and farming area were cut off.

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After multiple rounds of bidding, supervisors in May awarded a $623,100 contract to a Louisiana company to build a new ferry boat and barge. Annual operational costs for the ferry have been about $257,000 and are projected to remain the same.

The project proposed by May calls for the construction of a levee from where the Mainline Mississippi River Levee meets the Yazoo Backwater Levee, northwest of town, in an arc to the southeast and ending about two miles west of the mouth of the Yazoo Canal.

Acting on the idea, supervisors three years ago asked the Vicksburg District Corps of Engineers to study the proposals under the Corps’ small-projects authority. The District presented a preliminary report two years ago.

“We are at the point where we need to get back with the sponsor (the Warren County Board of Supervisors) and talk about where we are,” project manager Terry Smith told the board at an update meeting Tuesday. Essentially, Smith said, it’s decision time for supervisors.

Smith said the district has brought the study to a point where he can say there is a feasible project according to federal standards since the annual benefit to cost ratio is about $1.50 for every $1 invested.

So far, the study has cost the county about $325,000.

There are two alternate routes for the levee, on the west side of Taylor Lake or on the east side of the lake. Smith said the route to the east of Taylor Lake is the alternative with the best benefit-cost ratio.

The proposed alternative will provide some flood protection from a two-year frequency flood to about 5,100 acres of land of which about 500 acres are cleared for agriculture, Smith said. At that level of protection, the area could see about a foot less water than without the levee. He also said the levee would have a section at an elevation of about 87.2 mean sea level, or about 41 feet on the Vicksburg gauge, that would be overtopped at higher river levels than 41 feet to help prevent the levee from washing out.

The total cost of the most feasible alternative was estimated at more than $3.5 million with the county having to shoulder about $1.35 million of the cost plus all annual maintenance.

In addition to providing some flood protection, the levee project would include a gravel road atop the levee that would allow the county to cease operation of the ferry, saving that $257,000 per year.

The new ferry barge and push boat are being built by a Tensas Parish firm with $500,000 of the cost coming from state funds. The old ferry barge has been in dry dock this month undergoing about $65,000 worth of repairs needed in the aftermath of a Coast Guard inspection. A temporary ferry is providing service.