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‘ The levee has never been better’

‘ The levee has never been better’


‘ The levee has never been better’

Rash delivers stellar report at annual meeting

The St. Francis levee board convened for the annual district meeting in West Memphis. The group paced itself quickly through the business agenda, reaffirming the levee tax, marking progress on with maintenance and development along the levee, meeting the brand new Colonel in command at the Army Corps of Engineers Memphis District. The deliberate pace delivered the board to the traditional stand up and eat all you can stand to eat and then eat some more southern spicy fried chicken and pulled pork catered luncheon. The food was good and so was the news.

“The Levee has never been better,” reported CEO and Chief Engineer Rob Rash.

The board reelected the entire slate of officers including Senator Steve Higginbotham as President.

Expenses showed a $70,000 savings against the budget last year which was attributed to lower diesel fuel costs. Tax collections came in around $30,000 under budget. Interest income was off $15,000.

Budgeted expenses were $3.027 million.

“We actually spent $2.955 Million,” said Rash.

The new 2016 budget was pegged at three million dollars by the board. Maintenance expense was up because of a year end flood. Protecting people and property from floods is job one for the district.

Rash reported the outcomes of a flood he first heard of on Christmas Eve.

“I got a phone call that said Merry Christmas and the water is coming up,” said Rash. “It was 55 feet at Cairo. That’s a serious flood… 39-and-a-half feet at Memphis.”

The levee system worked well.

“Most people didn’t even realize we were having a major flood,” said Rash.

Inspections certified the entire 411-mile levee system. 176 new miles of levee were adopted in 2011 by the district in Craighead, Poinsett and Mississippi Counties for maintenance and development.

“Our inspection reports are reflecting great improvements I am proud to say,” said Rash. “We are one of the few levee districts in the country completely certified and authorized under the current four inspection criteria and FEMA requirements. Part of that had to do with us taking 176 miles of levee because we are held accountable for anything (flood control) in the waterway that our Levee touches.”

The St. Francis district brought the acquired levee up to meet the federal standards which have steadily increased since Hurricane Katrina.

Rash covered a to-do list for maintenance and development.

“There is a stretch at the Missouri state line that needs some work,” said Rash. “We are working with the Army Corps of Engineers to fix this area.”

Gammon area in Marion is the site of another project, which was on the federal government’s top ten list.

“The Corps has put in 49 relief wells at Gammon,” said Rash. “Gammon has always been a high seepage area during every flood. If you look through the flood reports, back in the 1927 and 2011 floods, Gammon was a problem area. As you pass through the six miles there you we see a new slope adjustment on the levee. You see land berms and a water berm outside of that on the protected side of the levee. And now outside of that you will see relief wells.

Rash introduced the new Memphis District Army Corps of Engineers commander Col. Michael Ellicott. He presented two recognition trophies to the St. Francis Levee District for their steady performance over the years and work with the Corps.

By John Rech

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