A standing-room-only crowd of at least 150 people packed out the Eagle Lake Methodist Church meeting room Saturday to get an update on the potential of floods in 2020.
Officials from nearly every Mississippi governmental agency that has a role to play in flood control and prevention were on hand, including a representative from Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann’s office, Andrew Yang, and State Rep. Kevin Ford (R-Vicksburg).
Among those making presentations or available to answer questions were Mississippi Emergency Management Agency Director Gregory S. Michel, Warren County Emergency Management Agency Director John Elfer, Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace, County Fire Coordinator Gerald Briggs, Peter Nimrod with the Mississippi Levee Board, and Drew Smith with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The Warren County Board of Supervisors were on hand and when announced, the supervisors received a round of loud applause from the crowd.
“All five of us are here to let you know this new board is listening, ” said District 4 Supervisor Jeff Holland during the question and answer period.
Holland addressed the need for better communication between the various governmental entities and the public. When queried about debris removal, Holland deferred to District 1 Supervisor Edward Herring who told the crowd that bids had been received Friday and he anticipates awarding a contract Monday. The terms of the agreement will call for one contractor to remove and properly dispose of the debris from the structures that were torn down after the 2019 floodwaters receded.
Michel spoke to the fact that Warren County Emergency Management is the conduit to his agency as well as state and federal resources. He encouraged residents to form a committee or group to manage flood resources and to choose an incident commander. He also stated that his agency has various levels of training available. Michel said that there are additional funds available for flood-fighting equipment that were not available in 2019.
USACE Vicksburg District Commander Robert Hillard, Engineering and Construction Chief Henry Dulaney, Project Manager Kent Parish and Water Management Chief Kent Smith all addressed the gathering.
The speakers all pledged their help for 2020. Smith outlined the current levels and predictions. Currently, theYazoo Backwater forecast is predicted to crest near 93.2 feet, putting 376,000 acres underwater in the Mississippi South Delta. The Steele Bayou Structure gates, which were holding in all that water, were reopened Sunday morning.
For the people at Eagle Lake who were traumatized by months of flooding in 2019, many were looking for a fix that can happen quickly to avoid a repeat of the devastation of last year. The bad news is that even if the proposed pumps are approved by Congress today, it will take at least four years as the original plan would have to be reworked based on recent data. Dulaney stated that when approved, the very best Corps employees from across the nation would be involved in the planning and design phase, and Hillard agreed that Corps resources would be made available if needed.
Nimrod addressed the possibility of placing some form of water control mechanism in the Brunswick levee near the northern end of the lake. He and Rep. Ford and others are researching the option to see if it is feasible from a cost and engineering perspective.
No additional meetings are scheduled at this time. With spring approaching, normally a rainy season, all eyes will remain on the lake and river levels.
Thomas Parker contributed to this report.See a typo? Report it here.