Corps of Engineers: BR levee safer, if Mississippi River floods

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - An area in Baton Rouge famous for springing leaks is getting new reinforcements. Crews stacked sandbags near Duncan Point last year when water from the Mississippi River pushed beneath the levee. Now, the project has some homeowners more relaxed about living so close to the river.

For months River Road, near Farr Park, has been closed as dump trucks move dirt back and forth. The Army Corps of Engineers is creating a seepage berm there, to stop water from bubbling up through the levee. Riverbend residents watch for problems with the river.

"If there was a failure, I don't think we'd have much time to get out," said David Heroman, President of the Riverbend Homeowners Association. He says last year, when the Mississippi River was raising, several people panicked. "We had quite a few homeowners that moved everything out of their house. Also, some raised everything up a few feet."

Historically, the Corps says the area has had problems with seepage. Last year, more than 10,000 sandbags were put down to reinforce the levee and prevent water from popping up.

"If one of those sand boils were to occur near the toe of the levee, you could have failure there," said Durund Elzey, with the Corp of Engineers.

Heroman says any failure of the levee would have been catastrophic for his subdivision.

In October the corps went ahead with plans to build a 1500 foot berm on the protected side of the levee, to prevent that from happening.

"That additional weight will push seepage farther down and away from levee," said Elzey.

The corps says if another major flood event comes this way, there will be no need to pile up sandbags here again.

But that doesn't mean nearby neighbors won't worry. As Heroman says, it's always a concern where you're fighting against Mother Nature.

Elzey says the project is about 70 percent complete. Things should be finished in August.

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