Farmers Blame Makeshift Bridge For Crop Flooding

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(Northeast Ar) In Lawrence, Greene and Craighead counties, there's a bridge over troubled waters.

Or, more to the point, a bridge causing trouble with water.

It has almost two dozen Northeast Arkansas farmers asking a Lawrence County judge to intervene and clear the way for a new bridge.

Farmer Cleo Watkins said the bridge in question is really no bridge at all.

"Old tank cars, old RR cars. They cut the ends out of them and made culverts for drainage."

Watkins said the makeshift bridge is a problem that's plaguing him and some other farmers in Craighead, Greene and Lawrence counties in Arkansas.

Where there used to be a wooden bridge on County Road 717, there is now a series of clogged-up railroad tankers turned culverts.

They are supposed to carry overflow water from the Cache River, but Watkins said they are 40 to 50 percent blocked.

"It's like putting a thousand gallons of water through a water hose."

So, any flood water backs up onto precious cropland reserved for rice, soybeans and corn.

Farmers are watching their profits run dry while trying to pump excess water from soggy fields.

In some cases, hundreds of acres of rice weren't even planted because the fields were just too wet.

But to make use of the land, some farmers planted a less profitable and more fragile soybean crop.

Lester Wilson is one of the farmers who took a beating from the Cache River's flood waters.

"With this water you want to get it off as fast as possible. Especially on your beans, because the beans can't take the water at all. So it will kill them."

Farmers affected by the Cache River flooding want a new bridge built, but were told there's not enough money.

In the meantime they say whatever the reason the old railroad tank cars are still being used, is costing them money.

Lamar Faught is a Certified Crop Consultant who's still puzzled by Lawrence Counties decision to use of tank cars as drain culverts,

"It's hard to say, from my point of view, what their thinking was on putting those in there."

Cleo Watkins said a new bridge could be built if Lawrence and Craighead Counties reach a cooperative agreement.

Regardless, Watkins and other farmers aren't ruling out legal action to get the flooding matter resolved.