Corps' plan gives Turkey Creek levee a lot more teeth

By Brad Kessie - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The Corps of Engineers wants to reinforce the Turkey Creek levee in north Gulfport.  The plan it presented to Congress adds another five feet to the height of a dirt levee that circles the Forest Heights community.  If Congress okays funding for the project next week, Forest Heights neighbors will have an extra layer of protection from flood waters.

Gulfport is already rebuilding the levee to keep Turkey Creek flood waters away from homes.

Tranquil looking Turkey Creek has been a rather menacing waterway for Joanna Edwards and her neighbors.

"We mostly just do what we've gotta do and hurry up and just get out of the way," Edwards said.

The Gulfport woman has lived on Holly Circle in Forest Heights for 25 years.  For much of that time, there's been nothing but vegetation standing between her backyard and the creek.

"It was just a ditch, and we said, 'Oh my God,'" she said.

You see, when heavy rains fell, water rushed over the ditch and toward the 200 homes in this neighborhood.  On as many as four occasions, Edwards' home got flooded.

"This is home, so I'm going to be here until they just push me out of the way.  So, I'll be all right," she said.

Recently, equipment arrived to build a much more significant dirt wall around this community.  Gulfport hired F&F Construction to resort the Forest Heights levee back to its original 16.5 foot level.  That height should insulate these homes from future floods.

Scott Burge is the engineer overseeing the levee restoration work.

"We never can say never, Katrina taught us not to do that.  But I think it will be very safe," he said.

Back in April, when Gulfport held a groundbreaking for this $672,000 levee restoration project, I literally had to walk uphill to get from the levee to Ohio Avenue.  Today, the levee is just about the same height as the road.  And Ohio Avenue is 2.5 feet higher than it used to be.

"Construction wise, it was just hauling in a lot of dirt, and then shaping and forming ditches, and building the levee up all around Forest Heights," said Burge.

That work has Joanna Edwards breathing a sigh of relief.

"I think it's a good thing.  I think we're going to be all right," she said.

A branch of the Department of Agriculture is paying for the initial levee restoration work. A spokesman in Rep. Gene Taylor's office says the Army Corps of Engineers plan to add even more dirt to the Forest Heights levee is included in the Mississippi Coastal Improvements Program.

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