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Bunches Bend Levee Restored

Funded entirely by area property owners through a self-imposed property tax.

August 7, 2015

LAKE PROVIDENCE, La. ( August 7, 2015) – A ceremony was held today to rededicate 10,000 acres of land back to stakeholders of the Bunches Bend Protection District following the completion of repairs to the Bunches Bend levee in East Carroll Parish. The ceremony was held at the State Cotton Museum in Lake Providence, La. The event was followed by a tour of the repaired levee and a luncheon sponsored by the Columbia Pipeline Group.

Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain, D.V.M., Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardenne, Secretary of State Tom Schedler, Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, M.D., Sens. Francis Thompson and Neil Riser, Reps. Andy Anders and Bubba Chaney, and representatives from the Columbia Pipeline Group, Sunoco Pipeline, Bunches Bend Protection District, and Brister and Brister Attorneys at Law were all in attendance.

“This is the first planting season area farmers didn’t have to worry their investment would get washed away when the Mississippi River rose,” Strain said.

Repairs to the Bunches Bend levee were completed in November 2014 which was funded with a $5 million bond sale paid for entirely by area property owners through a self-imposed property tax. Not only are landowners funding through property tax, but utility companies are paying about 40 percent of the cost through ad valorem tax.

Bunches Bend is a 100-year old levee that was built prior to the mainline Mississippi River levee and now protects thousands of acres of prime farmland. During the 2011 Mississippi River flood, the old structure failed and carved a massive 90-foot-deep gash in the levee. The breach subsequently flooded 8,800 acres of farmland and dumped tons of sand and silt on corn, cotton and soybean crops. The crops were a total loss. The breach left farmers’ crops vulnerable to flooding with the rise and fall of the Mississippi River. The estimated the value of the crops is $5.5 million.

Area property owners looked for guidance from their lawmakers and other elected officials in devising a plan to secure funding to repair the levee.

“From the beginning, I pledged to work with area farmers and see this through to the end and that’s what I did,” Strain said.  “There were many obstacles requiring a lot of folks working tirelessly on creative solutions to accomplish the goal – a restored levee that will protect this land from flooding for another 100 years or more.”

In 2012, Sens. Thompson and Riser authored Senate Bill 730 that became Act 570. The law created a special tax district, the Bunches Bend Protection District, which enabled the farmers and other stakeholders to impose a property tax upon themselves in order to fund the repairs to the levee.

“Agriculture is an integral facet of the East Carroll Parish economy which is why I authored legislation in 2012, along with my colleague, Neil Riser, to create the Bunches Bend Levee Protection District,” Thompson said.  “It was critical to make these levee repairs after the breach in 2011 in order to return this farmland back into production.”

Riser added, “I was very happy to co-author legislation with Senator Francis Thompson regarding the creation of the Bunches Bend Levee Protection District. This was very important legislation regarding repairs to the levee after the 2011 breach in order to assist our farmers.”

Anders who helped push the legislation along in the house said it was a pleasure to work with the farmers and other stakeholders. “This is a unique partnership and I’m pleased I could be of assistance to these fine folks,” Anders said.

Bunches Bend Protection District Commission President Tap Parker who farms 3,000 acres of land impacted by the levee breach said he and the other farmers were grateful for all the help from everyone who made the repairs possible.

“We were impressed with all of the hard work and effort put forth on our behalf,” Parker said. “We could not have completed this levee work without their guidance and support and for that we are grateful.”