Although the river is low this year, 2011 brought flood waters rushing from the Mississippi River, cutting a hole 90-feet deep through the secondary levee. The river then dumped sand over prime farmland and Reynold Minsky, president of the fifth district levee board said the new levee will be higher than the old one in order to protect that land.
“You’re talking about protecting 12,000 acres of the finest land in the parish,” Minsky said, indicating the levee will be more than 120-feet above sea level. “It’s just sand what these trucks are hauling now, sand that came out of this hole and we’re putting it back into the hole.”
Since June 2, crews have dumped enough sand into the hole on the north end of the levee so that it’s now only 35-feet deep. Mark Brown owns and farms about 2,500 acres in Bunches Bend and so far, he’s happy with the progress, as well as his crops.
“It’s the prettiest crop ever,” Brown said. “The river did bring us some good silt dirt that we were able to plant in. We still have some sand on part of it that we hope to move one day, but it’s amazing the good dirt it brought us.”
Brown was instrumental in getting legislation passed which allows the farmers and landowners in Bunches Bend to pay the $1.4 million to repair the levee over time through a bond issue.
“Well, it’s a three-phase project. Our hopes are to finish this by this winter and the south end is a bigger project. Then the third phase is coming around and getting the whole levee up to a better standard. So, we have big hopes that we’ll be better off than we were."
On the other side of the levee, “The Butcher” is going to work, dredging out the ship channel. In nearby Vicksburg, the river stage is only two feet, a complete reversal from last year’s all-time record of 57 feet set in the flood of 2011. The irony is that if dredges like “The Butcher” don’t make some room for barges, ‘the prettiest crop ever’ will have no place along the river to get out to export markets.
Farmers in the Delta region are expected to deliver a bumper crop this year of 70 million bushels of corn and 20 million bushels of soybeans, another irony in a year where drought has stricken most of the U.S. and crippled not only farms, but the river system almost every grain farmer in the country uses.