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|Rains bring drainage issues back to forefront|
More than a foot rise is expected on the Mississippi River at Vidalia next week, but the river stage is far below its level last year at this time despite more than 10 inches of rainfall which fell in some areas of Concordia last week.
That was followed by more rainfall Tuesday.
Last week's heavy rains caused lake levels to swell and Concordia Parish Police Jury President Melvin Ferrington said Tuesday the Corps of Engineers had yet to turn on the pumps at Tensas-Cocodrie Pumping Plant on Wild Cow Bayou, which he said would provide drainage relief to the parish. The plant on Wild Cow was designed to divert floodwater inside the parish down Bayou Cocodrie and Wild Cow where it can be pumped into Black River.
"There enough water down there to run four sets of pumps but they're not on yet," Ferrington said, noting that he contacted Congressman Rodney Alexander's office for assistance.
"Please give us any help that you can to get the pumps started and relieve the flooding in the parish," Ferrington asked Alexander in the fax.
Ferrington said Wednesday morning that Corps' officials advised that the main holdup in the drainage on Cocodrie is a three-mile strip of the channel that narrows considerably. Additionally, silt bars and log jams hamper drainage.
"The Corps said we need legislative help through Congress to study the problem on Cocodrie," said Ferrington. "The fact that Cocodrie is a scenic waterway adds to the problem.
Jason Trichell, Assistant Coordinator with the Fifth District Levee Board, said at this time last year "we were in a Phase 1 flood fight."
He said in late March 2008, the Mississippi was at 50 feet at Vidalia, two feet above flood stage. That compares to a 40.3 feet reading on Tuesday.
County Agent Glen Daniels said from 80 to 90 percent of the corn crop has been planted and that rainfall damage seems to be minor thus far.
"There was a concern over nitrogen loss and other factors, but that doesn't not seem to be a problem at this time," said Daniels. "Some corn went under water for a while during the heavy rains but we're hoping most of those areas will be all right."
He said the remedy is simple: "We need some warm, dry weather and sunshine."
Farmers will begin planting cotton, soybeans and grain sorghum in April, he said.
"More rain will not help things," said Daniels.
Meanwhile, normal activity will resume on Lake Concordia and Lake St. John on Thursday with one stipulation.
"We're asking everyone to please stay in the middle of the lakes and refrain from boating near piers and property in order to avoid damage," Sheriff Randy Maxwell said today (Wednesday).
Recreational boating and fishing were halted on the two lakes late last week due to the significantly rising water caused by recent storms and heavy rainfall.
"We want to thank everyone for their cooperation during this time period," Maxwell said. "We know that this has caused a hardship on some, and everyone wants to open the lakes back up just as quickly as possible."
Tom Bell of the Lake St. John Recreational & Water Conservation District said the lake level rose 18 inches during the heavy rainfall last week after 10 inches fell.
"We got a foot and a half of water, but the lake is falling at this time," he said Tuesday. "We opened a second gate on Sunday and we've been losing an inch a day since then."
"We were impeded from removing any water from the lake during the rainfall because the bayous were full," said Bell. "We've got at least 4,000 acres of drainage north of us in the parish. It has to be satisfied before we can move any water out of the lake. It's like waiting in line and the old philosophy -- first in, first out, last in, last out. We're last out in the parish system."
Bell said the 10 inches of rainfall "was unprecedented. I've never seen four days of continual heavy rain like we experienced last week. Once we see the opportunity we'll open the third gate."
Johnny Patrick of the Lake Concordia Advisory Committee said the lake rose 21 inches after 9.75 inches of rain was recorded in the Ferriday area.
"Two Sundays before the rains we opened the gate to draw the lake down," he said. "When the gate was closed the water level was 13 inches below the top of the weir."
He said the gate was re-opened at 8:15 a.m. last Wednesday and remains open.
"The problem is the culverts will let out only an inch of water a day," he said, adding that both culverts drain into Cocodrie Bayou at Fisherman's Drive in Ferriday.
"We have an old-style timber weir that you have to handle manually," he said. "The other weir has a concrete vat and culvert on the side. On the opposite side is a gate where you turn a wheel."
He said in 2006 an "old board was replaced on the new weir and we added a 2 x 12. At that time, the lake was low." In 2008, he said, a six-inch timber was removed to help lower the lake level.
"There are piers that are under water right now, including mine," said Patrick. "There is water over some sea walls."
He said this contrasts with 2006 when the water level was so low "you couldn't get a boat out of a launch. We're constantly trying to find a balance. But our problem is compounded when we have these unusual rainfall events. The lake gets high and we have no pumps" to help push the water out.
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