Louisiana Guard engineers search miles of levee on foot
Sgt. Rebekah Malone
Louisiana National Guard Public Affairs Office
VIDALIA, La. – More than 25 Louisiana National Guard members from the 769th Engineer Battalion have spent the last nine days walking portions of the 72-miles of levee that protect Concordia Parish residents from the brimming Mississippi River in search of sand boils and seepage, May 14.
Working 24-hours a day in 11-to-12 hour shifts, teams of Guard members traverse swampy areas in chest waders, yielding machetes for protection against snakes and other wildlife, in search of sand boils that, if left unattended could weaken the levee.
“[The team] projected they walked five-miles today,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jason Pino, noncommissioned officer in charge of the project. “That’s through mud, water and in chest waders.”
A student at Southern University majoring in computer science, Private Desmond Grove of Baton Rouge, moved through the water with intense concentration, trying to differentiate between the natural current of the water and a possible sand boil; a mission that can be challenging, but important Grove said.
“It is significant when you find one because you can see the potential damage of what it can become,” said Grove. “I’ve seen one go from the size of a dime to the size of a baseball
overnight. They have a tendency to expand very rapidly.”
In Concordia Parish, 45 sand boils have been marked and reported to the Army Corps of Engineers, who then make determinations for further action. To date, the Louisiana National Guard has identified approximately 100 sand or pin boils in northeast Louisiana.
“Sand boils can possibly weaken the integrity of the levee,” said Vernon Smith, a 35-year veteran at the USACE’s Vidalia office. He said having the Guard out looking in the areas that have historically supported sand boils has eased the burden on his shoulders.
“They are my eyes in the field. They are covering territory I couldn’t cover by myself,” he said. “I have nothing but praise for what they have done for me. “They are gung-ho,” continued Smith. “I am pleased with their attitude and work ethic. They’ve accomplished everything I’ve given them to do.”
Smith said he gave the engineers training on what to look for, and then took the Soldiers to the areas he needed searched, and is confident in their work.
“I don’t second guess them,” he said.
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VIDALIA, La. – Louisiana National Guardsman Spc. Dustin August of Denham Springs, La., points out a snake in a photo taken while searching swampy areas west of the Concordia Parish levee, May 14, 2011. More than 25 members of the 225th Engineer Brigade have been working in shifts 24 hours a day searching for sand boils and looking for seepage along portions of the 72 miles of levee that protect Concordia Parish from the brimming Mississippi River. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Rebekah Malone, Louisiana National Guard
Public Affairs Office/Released)