BATON ROUGE - Daily levee inspections of the Mississippi River levees have begun as the river continues to rise.
This morning, the Pontchartrain Levee District began monitoring the levees daily and checks around the clock are about to start. Already, seepage from the river is occurring in some neighborhoods along River Road in Baton Rouge.
Inspectors said the biggest challenge they face right now are from people illegally joy riding. Inspectors are trying to make sure the integrity of the levee is preserved.
It hasn't rained in days, but a slow trickle of water is coming out of the ground in neighborhoods along River Road near the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge. It was a similar situation four years ago, when sand boils caused big problems. The boils tore up roads after the river got high. The Morganza Spillway had to be opened to alleviate the pressure. That's why inspectors are on top of the levees today, until the river recedes.
"They are looking for any levee sloughing, animal burrows, seepage concerns, any rutting caused by four wheelers and four wheel drive vehicles," Monica Salins, Executive Director of the Pontchartrain Levee District said.
Her organization is tasked with making sure 150 miles of levee between Baton Rouge and St. Charles Parish is in good working order. On a ride along today, we got to see just how high the river has risen. Some businesses have shuddered, like this dirt pit in Ascension Parish. The water already covering to the stop sign to the road leading to it.
"You want to make sure if there are problems you run across that you patrol those areas more frequently than you do some others," Salins said.
As the Mississippi River rushes by with a fierce flow, this area on the dry side of the levee was a particular concern. You can see fresh tire tracks where people went for a joy ride. Salins says this was not here just 24 hours ago. There are concerns about levee damage, with the river this high. Since the 2011 flood, repairs have been made to the levees in problem areas. For Salins, the flood fight is just beginning and that means heeding the following advice.
"Respect what this levee system was designed and constructed to do," Salins said. "That is to protect the people that sit behind it."
You can face stiff fines if you get caught damaging the levee during a high water event.
The river is expected to stay swollen a couple of weeks after it crests.