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Southern University is being washed away by Mississippi River; conditions ‘threaten human safety’ unless fixed

Published: Jul. 2, 2021 at 5:52 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Southern University is falling into the Mississippi River.

University officials are sounding the alarm after erosion is threatening the Student Health Center on campus. The facilities director says it is only a matter of time before erosion causes serious losses of the historic oaks, architecture, and vital utility systems.

The erosion, according to the facilities director, is caused by the high water levels the Mississippi River has experienced recently. The water kills vegetation along Scott’s Bluff causing the soil to wash away. When the water rises, it sends water back into a ravine that cuts through the campus, it serves as a drain to the areas surrounding campus. When the water flows backwards it creates unstable soil conditions and causes active erosion. In turn, it causes bank instability which is causing sever damage to the university infrastructure as roads and sidewalks are caving into the ravine, and structures are placed at risk for ongoing deterioration. This is evident at the Student Health Center.

“To fix it right it’s going to take concrete,” said State Senator and Southern Alumnus Cleo Fields. “It’s going to be just like the Mississippi River downtown.”

Fields has been sounding the alarm about the erosion. During the last legislative session he asked for $20 million to be invested in a fix. The $20 million is what he said the Corps of Engineers estimates the project will cost. Fields only got $1.6 million.

“People did not know and did not realize how serious the problem is and I was a lonely voice in the wilderness saying listen, I really do have a problem and I’ve got to get people over here to see it,” he said.

Fields said the University’s administrators will now have to go before a joint committee on finance to make their case for the necessary dollars. He said he hopes that by sounding the alarm to the situation, that money will be awarded.

“This is not a problem we can fix 10 years from now, five years from now, even three years from now,” he said. “It’s a problem we have to address today.”

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