Levee districts working around the clock to battle seepage

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wwltv.com

Posted on May 11, 2011 at 5:29 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 30 at 9:56 AM

Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News

NEW ORLEANS ― The metro New Orleans area is at flood stage for the second day in a row, and while the levees are holding the Mississippi River back, water is seeping through in some areas, forcing local levee districts to work 24-7 during this historic high-water event.

Crews spent the morning on the New Orleans riverfront putting down sandbags and loads of gravel near the Toulouse Street wharf, not far from where the steamboat Natchez docks.

“Some of the gravel, I mean rip-wrap had been washed away in the past and they were just looking for areas that need reinforcement, so they were replacing it so there wouldn't be any erosion from wave wash from ships going by,” said Stevan Spencer of the SELA Flood Protection Authority-East.

Despite the work, some levees are already seeing seepage, including behind the French Market in the French Quarter.

“It's never been a problem,” Spencer said. “It's always clear, no sediment and that kind of thing, so we monitor that area in Orleans.”

But on the West Bank, the flood authority there is concerned about ship and barge traffic on the swollen river coming too close to the earthen structures.

“We want those to stay off the levees,” Westbank Flood Protection Authority member Susan Maclay said. “Today we had two barges that we had to remove from the levees. They were on the slope pavement. Traffic needs to stay 180 feet from the slope pavement.”

There also is concern about the rising water’s effect on Avondale Shipyard if the river gets above the 17-foot flood stage.

Maclay said their electric grid is at 18 feet and if it goes under water, 3,000 people will be home from work for nearly three weeks.

Levee Authorities also are concerned with vehicle traffic and are trying to keep them off the top of the levees. Additionally, no construction work will be allowed to happen within 1,500 feet of a levee until the water recedes.

One thing the rising river seems to be doing is bringing out people to see the river.

“I think it's very important,” visitor Joyce Dunn said. “The water is pretty high and if it comes up a foot or two it will go over.”

Added Norbert Sunzmihl, “It's good they do it, but I'm quite worried what will happen. I'm from Germany and Denmark, a musician just visiting and I know what happened during Katrina. I just praying that the levees will hold and everything will be OK.”

To see a presentation from the levee authorities that gives a broad scope of the potential flooding issues, click here.

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