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On top of Steele Bayou while opening the gates

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The sun setting in the west as the gates are opened at Steele Bayou. (Photo by David Day)

Thomas and Gene with RBS entered the control structure at Steele Bayou at 6:34 p.m. on Monday April 20, and began the hour-and-a-half-long procedure of opening the four gates. Opening the gates begins the long process of draining flood waters from the South Delta.

Atop the structure, Gene and Thomas begin the hour-and-a-half-long process of opening the gates. (Photo by David Day)

After knocking a wasp off the locked doors, the two men entered the main hydraulic control room and started the equipment that would lift the gates. An arduous climb up two flights of stairs to the top of the structure allowed for a beautiful view of the South Delta flood.

Once on top of the structure, they sounded the horn to inform anyone in the water near the structure to get out of the way. The half dozen sportsmen fishing from the structure looked up towards the top of the structure but barely blinked. There was no real rush to move since it takes about 20 minutes for a single gate to lift.

While Gene was sounding the horn, Thomas was opening the box with the controls for the first gate. The box was little more than an open-close switch, a light and electric controls that looked to be from the 1960s.

Thomas observes the pulleys and cables as they slowly move, creaking and shuttering along the way. The marker shows the gate at 19 feet on its way to fully open at 23 feet. (Photo by David Day)

Once the controls for the first gate were turned to “open,” the humming of equipment and the rattle of the steel gates began. The wheels and cables atop the structure seemed to show no progress or results, but the gates were opening at a snail’s pace. It took about 20 minutes for the first gate to hit the open mark, about 23 feet. The swirling water on the flooded side of the gate was a sure sign water was moving on through. Even more stark was the differently colored water on the other side of the gate flowing from the bayou into the channel that leads to the Yazoo River.

The river side of the structure has been a favorite fishing spot for generations of sportsmen. The third generation was at the gates fishing this Monday evening.

A solitary fisherman in this photo was one of a half dozen or so on the structure Monday evening as the gates were opened. The discolored water in front of him is the first of the flood waters to hit the channel to the Yazoo River just downstream. (Photo by David Day)

The gates were constructed in the late 1960s as part of a massive governmental engineering project to control flooding in the Mississippi Delta. That project, the Mississippi Rivers and Tributaries Project, was begun some 30 years prior to that as a response to the Great Flood of 1927. The plan was to build levees, channels and control structures throughout the Delta to force flood waters from the Mississippi to the gates at Steele Bayou. Once the waters start to accumulate at Steele Bayou, large pumps would force the water from the holding area into the Yazoo River.

The view from the stairs just below the upper level on the Steele Bayou control structure. (Photo by David Day)

The pumps were never built as planned, and the result has been regular flooding as designed because there are no pumps to remove the water. Those man-made floods have devastated the lives of generations of people who call the South Delta home.

2020 has been similar to 2019’s flood path. The river has crested and fallen a couple of times and that has left the gates closed for a large part of the year. Several heavy rainfalls, including near record rainfall the first two weeks of January, have filled up the South Delta to about 85% of last year’s levels.

The channel full of flood waters as designed. Without the pumps that were a part of the design plan, this area floods on a regular basis. With the pumps, flooding will be regulated to wetland areas and designated flood zones. (Photo by David Day)

When the Mississippi River is rising, the Yazoo River also rises. That rise could force water to back up into the Delta if the Steele Bayou gates are not closed. But heavy rainfall also causes the South Delta to flood when the gates are closed and the floodwater has nowhere to go.

When the river is falling and drops below the level of the backwater, the gates can be opened to allow water to drain from the South Delta.

 

 

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Alcorn student leader works to advance other students in STEM fields

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Alexandria Williams (photo courtesy ASU)

Last year, Alcorn State University was granted its official charter for the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers Chapter. This year, the organization appointed its first student leader.

Alexandria Williams, a junior computer science major from Detroit, Michigan, was named the first Miss NOBCChE for the Alcorn chapter. The organization assists aspiring STEM students in gathering knowledge about the field and becoming STEM professionals.

Solidifying her leadership role in the chapter is significant for Williams because she feels the chapter can achieve excellence. She’s happy to play a critical role in the chapter’s legacy on campus.

“It’s an incredible honor to be crowned Alcorn’s first Miss NOBCChE,” Williams said. “Alcorn’s chapter is destined for greatness, so this is history in the making. To be a part of this history feels amazing.”

Sonia Eley, NOBCChE adviser and chemistry professor, is confident in Williams’ ability to represent the chapter.

“Alexandria possesses the qualities it takes to lead this chapter,” Eley said. “Her intelligence, rapport with her peers and love for STEM make her the ideal selection for the position. I have faith that she will be an excellent leader whose exceptional decision-making skills would move this chapter forward.”

In her decision making, Williams relies on faith to steer her into her purpose. She’s confident that accepting her leadership role is the right path for her.

“I try to align everything I do with God’s purpose in my life,” she said. “I joined NOBCChE last school year and served as the social media and graphic design chairman. Through my experience, I learned more about my field of study, gained community service hours and made new friends. I had such an amazing experience that when I was presented with the opportunity to represent the organization, I couldn’t resist accepting the position.”

The chapter showcases the talent of Alcorn’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics majors. Williams applauds NOBCChE for providing a platform for aspiring Black STEM professionals.

“I believe that Alcorn’s NOBCChE chapter is important because the world needs to recognize the power of talented Black STEM students,” she said. “We are capable of being great in this space, and we possess the ability to change the STEM profession’s landscape. NOBCChE is one of many platforms that showcases our talent and worth.”

Ever-changing technological advances inspired Williams to become a computer science major. Watching these advancements fuel her desire to be one of the future’s leading engineers.

“We witness technological advances often. The world is transitioning to a new technological age,” she said. “We have autonomous vehicles, face detection in the palm of our hands and scientists are equipped to reverse paralysis. During this change, the world is searching for people to develop new technologies and introduce them to the world. Those professionals are engineers, and for some time, I’ve been dreaming about becoming one.”

Encouraging younger students to pursue STEM programs and careers also excites Williams. Last summer in her hometown, she created Coder Gals, a four-week program that introduces girls in grades three through five to STEM and coding concepts. Williams prepares a curriculum for the students, hosts workshops, trains mentors and distributes newsletters to parents. The lack of women engineers was Williams’ motivation for starting the initiative.

“I started a chapter in my community because of the lack of female representation in STEM fields. We strive to spark young girls’ interest in coding through fun, creative, and collaborative projects and create the foundation for their future success. We instill in them that they can succeed in any male-dominated field that they choose.”

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USACE publishes mainline levees Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement

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Friday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers published its Final Supplement II to the 1976 Final Environmental Impact Statement, Mississippi River and Tributaries Project, Mississippi River Mainline Levees in the Federal Register.

Through evaluation of information and data obtained from levee inspections, seepage analyses, research, studies and engineering assessments, the USACE Memphis, Vicksburg and New Orleans districts collectively identified 143 additional work items along various reaches of the Mississippi River mainline levees  feature of the MR&T project. These work items are remedial measures to control seepage and/or raise and stabilize deficient sections of the existing levees and floodwalls to maintain the structural integrity and stability of the MRL system.

The 143 work items constitute the proposed action for this Final SEIS II and are located across portions of seven states: Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana. This document is intended to supplement and, as necessary, augment the 1976 FEIS and 1998 Supplemental EIS to achieve USACE’s primary goals for the MR&T:

  • providing flood risk reduction from the Project Design Flood; and
  • being an environmentally sustainable project.

The Final SEIS II is available online at the USACE Vicksburg District website. The 30-day review period begins Friday, Nov. 13, and ends Monday, Dec. 14.

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Crime

VPD reports a string of burglaries from Tuesday through Thursday

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The Vicksburg Police Department reports that several burglaries occurred this week from Tuesday through Thursday.

On Tuesday, Nov. 10, at 5:58 a.m. officers responded to 1601 North Frontage Road in reference to a residential burglary. The victim advised he discovered the lock on his trailer was broken and multiple power tools valued at $5,000 were missing.

Tuesday at 11 p.m., officers responded to Parts Supply, 2406 South Frontage Road, in reference to an auto burglary. The victim stated he saw a white male wearing a camo jacket run from the cab of his truck carrying his lunch box while the driver was making a delivery to the store.

On Wednesday, Nov. 11, a victim came to the police department at 11:59 a.m. to report an auto burglary. The theft occurred on either Bridge Street or Evans Alley, sometime between Nov. 2 and Nov. 3. A Taurus 9-mm handgun was taken from the unlocked vehicle.

On Thursday, Nov. 12, at 8:41 a.m. a victim came to the police department to report an auto burglary. A black, white and lime green Scott bicycle was stolen off the back of the victim’s 2017 Nissan Altima. The bicycle is valued at around $3,000.

Also on Thursday, officers responded to Tri-State Tires, 2209 Washington St., at 10:19 a.m. for a business burglary. The complainant stated one of the U-Haul transports valued at $9,000 was stolen Tuesday, Nov. 10.

If you have information on any of these incidents, please call the Vicksburg Police Department at 601-636-2511.

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