The city of Conway has partnered with Faulkner County to address flooding issues by ensuring the levee is properly maintained.
“The city and county work well together,” Mayor Bart Castleberry said. “We’re headed down the road with an end result, we just have to slow paddle to get there.”
Before either entity can apply for grants to use on the levee, experts had to determine what the best solution would be — either pumps or levee work.
“The U.S. Geological Survey is in the process of finishing a study to determine what our needs are,” Grant Administrator Candy Jones said, noting that the city and county would apply for grants based on those needs once the findings are released. “We don’t know what to apply for.”
The city and county each chipped in $10,000 for the study, which is scheduled to be complete before the end of the year.
The 7-mile levee, which stretches from south of Toad Suck and goes to Eastern Wood Pointe, protects landowners in Lollie Bottoms — for which they pay a tax — but also a portion of the city, Castleberry said.
“If the levee breaks, Walmart on Dave Ward Drive would flood as well as several residences along Tucker Creek and as far back as Jim Stone Elementary School,” he said. “It’s incumbent on us to make sure we have a good, strong levee.”
In 1905, Bill Little — at the time the largest landowner in Lollie Bottoms — built a semi-public, semi-private levee and formed the levee district. He was the first chairman, current Faulkner County District No. 1 Chairman Twig Satterfield said. That levee was destroyed in the 1920s and the current levee was completed in 1932.
“The basis of the levee is that it gives protection to the land owners on the other side of the levee and those land owners are taxed. That’s what pays the bills and operation of the levee,” Satterfield said.
He continued: “In 1966, the Tupelo Bayou Commission was formed to address drainage because it was quite obvious by then the levee was going to protect the land but when it rained, they couldn’t get the water out of the farmlands. It wouldn’t drain fast enough.
“Tucker Creek runs into the Tupelo Bayou so that is the main western drainage for the city of Conway.”
The levee district and the Tupelo Bayou district have long discussed merging, a move that is now within sight.
“We realized that the levee district and the Tupelo district are on top of each other,” Satterfield said. “So, we thought: ‘Why have two different boards, two different operations? Let’s combine these districts.’
“We’ve been trying to do this for about 15 years. Doing the paperwork now, had all the public hearings we’re required to have by law. We had our final meeting and the lawyers are in the process of getting necessary paperwork to take it to the judge.”
Once the merger is approved, money from both districts will combine into one fund.
County Judge Jim Baker, who will likely be the one to approve the merger, said he approves of the move.
“We’re got a good board,” he said. “We’ve got a good levee, it just has to be maintained.”