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THE MISSISSIPPI LEVEE BOARD: PROJECTS FOR THE PEOPLE

WHY ENLARGE OUR EXISTING LEVEES? The levees in place along the Mississippi River are critical factors in the safety of residents of the Delta. As the last barrier between many homes and farms and the wrath of flood waters, it is crucial that these levees be maintained and improved upon as needed.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) determined during and following the 1973 flood that the efficiency of the Mississippi River to discharge the Project Design Flood had declined drastically. This was evidenced by the fact that comparable volumes of discharge measured at gauging stations in the Vicksburg and New Orleans districts were at higher stages than had been previously noted or predicted.

Immediately following the 1973 flood, the Corps completed studies and prepared what is now known as the Refined 1973 Project Flowline, which required an extensive levee enlargement program, some up to 8 feet in height in order to provide a 3 feet freeboard above the newly established project flowline. The project flowline is computed on a volume of water that would be created by a series of storms, which would provide the greatest flood having a reasonable probability of occurrence.

The levee enlargement program in the MS Levee Board district includes 69 miles of deficient levee beginning just below the Greenville Bridge and extending to the lower end of the district with a maximum enlargement being in the vicinity of Mayersville, MS. Some short reaches of seepage berms located north of Greenville also remain part of the program.

 

 

CONFRONTING CHALLENGES While the facts made the need for levee enlargement abundantly clear, some organizations still stated opposition to the programs.

Endangered LA Black Bear

As the Mississippi Levee Board began acquisition of right-of-way for two berm jobs south of Fitler, MS in 1995, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services questioned the adequacy of the 1976 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Levee Enlargement Project, citing changes in environmental policy and other issues as their reasons for objecting. The following private environmental groups, National Wildlife Federation, Mississippi Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club, through its Delta and Mississippi Chapters, American Rivers, Arkansas Wildlife Federation, Louisiana Wildlife Federation and the MS River Basin Alliance retained the environmental watchdog group Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund in 1996 to sue the Vicksburg District Corps of Engineers challenging the adequacy of the levee portion of the 20-year old Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Mississippi River & Tributaries Project (MR&T). The Board of Mississippi Levee Commissioners and the Board of Levee Commissioners for the Yazoo- Mississippi Delta intervened in the lawsuit on behalf of the Mississippi citizens protected by the levee. In 1999, the Vicksburg District and the Levee Boards prevailed in this litigation held in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. The Plaintiffs-Appellants appealed this judgment, but the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ruling in favor of the Corps and the Levee Boards in 2000. Thus, the necessity and importance of the projects for citizens of the Delta was made clear.

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