Vidalia will use new plan to combat flood on riverfront

VIDALIA, La. -- The city will use an alternative plan to protect the businesses in the riverfront district than it did during record high water in 2011.

The Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center projects the river will rise to 60 feet by Jan. 17, 1.95 feet shy of the record watermark that inundated the riverfront in 2011 but nonetheless well above the 48-foot flood stage at Vidalia.

If the water reaches the forecast height, the crest would be the second-highest recorded level in history.

The new plan for the riverfront, discussed after a meeting of the board of aldermen in which the city declared a state of emergency in advance of a rising Mississippi River, is to build a ring of Hesco baskets around a portion of the riverfront area.

In 2011, the first time Hesco baskets were used, the baskets -- which act as a miniature levee -- were built around individual buildings. The new plan is to build a temporary levee on the northern end of the riverfront, run Hesco baskets along the riverfront to just south of Promise Hospital and then connect them to the main levee.

Mayor Hyram Copeland said the new configuration would allow the businesses to stay open even as the river rises, with access coming from Riverside Drive. The baskets will attach to the levee south of Promise Hospital because the floodwaters crept up the riverfront from the south in 2011.

About 1,000 Hesco baskets were delivered Thursday in Vidalia, and another 1,000 are expected today.

"Things have been moving pretty fast," Copeland said. "We first learned about the situation about 2 a.m. Monday morning, and since then we have been in constant contact with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and all our state and local agencies."

Copeland said he believes the city is better prepared and has more time to prepare than it did in the 2011 flood.

Alderman Vernon Stevens said all indications are the parish's levee systems will hold.

"We are going to prepare for the worst and hope we don't get any worse than we did in 2011," he said.