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story.lead_photo.caption The Arkansas River flows into a huge gap in the levee in the Lollie Bottoms area near Conway on Friday. - Photo by Thomas Metthe

CONWAY -- Temporary repairs to Faulkner County's 90-year-old Lollie Bottoms levee, which survived historic flooding of the Arkansas River, should begin in roughly three weeks if all goes well, a representative of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Monday.

Jim Marple, who is with the Corps' emergency operations, talked briefly at the Conway municipal airport with board members who oversee Faulkner County Levee and Drainage District No. 1.

The airport had reopened earlier Monday for the first day since it shut down as the Arkansas River threatened the nearby levee on the Faulkner County side of the Faulkner-Perry county line. Late Thursday night, authorities had become so worried they advised nearby residents to evacuate and rushed to build a temporary, 20-foot-tall dam covered in plastic.

The levee held up, the river has been steadily falling, and workers have been dismantling the dam near the Toad Suck community.

"Everything's looking a lot better," Conway Mayor Bart Castleberry said Monday. "We're going to continue to monitor the weather north of here. We'll react quickly."

[RELATED: Flood-recovery work begins]

Board Chairman Twig Satterfield said the 7.1-mile-long Lollie Bottoms levee was built and finished in 1929 after the devastating floods of 1927.

Marple said the board would not have to pay for the repairs since the levee had been well-maintained in keeping with federal standards.

'"We already have the funding in hand," Marple said.

Once the board submits the necessary paperwork and the river level falls even more, the Corps can better inspect the levee for damages and move ahead on repairs, Marple said.

In a statement posted on Facebook, the city said, "If projections hold true, then flood waters should recede enough by Thursday for a clear and thorough analysis" of the levee.

The board also began discussing long-term plans to rebuild the levee, which Marple said the federal government also would finance.

[LIST: Federal programs available for Arkansans affected by floods]

By contrast, the Dardanelle levee that broke in Yell County on May 31 had not been properly maintained for a few years, said another Corps representative, Elmo Webb, who deals with levee safety. As a result, Webb said, the federal government won't pay anything on the needed repairs there.

Before the Corps representatives arrived at the meeting to discuss funding, County Judge Jim Baker had said he would ask the Faulkner County Quorum Court to lend any needed money to finance levee repairs.

Baker, who is not a board member, suggested that officials consider two major levee changes.

First, Baker suggested that in any future situation where the river threatens to flood Conway, with a population of roughly 59,000, that workers be allowed to cut the lowest portion of the levee where it meets Easter Wood Point so that the water would flow into an unpopulated flood plain rather than the city.

"I think the reason you cut it is for safety," Baker said.

As it was last week, the area had a "very close call," said Jack Bell, a board member who represents the city.

Baker also suggested that the Corps consider removing Little Levee, a smaller levee near the Lollie Bottoms structure. The problem is that Little Levee was working against the larger, more significant levee in protecting the city from floodwaters, he noted.

A Section on 06/11/2019

Print Headline: Aid in works to repair Lollie Bottoms levee


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