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Business impact of Red River flood waits for lower water

by Associated Press

SHREVEPORT — The Red River is still falling slowly at Shreveport and wasn’t expected to begin falling near Natchitoches until late Sunday, so it will be a while before northwest Louisiana business owners know the full extent of flood damage.

The starting point of a long rebuilding process will be a meeting June 23 in Natchitoches for river officials and business owners, Red River Valley Association director Rich Brontoli told The Times.

More damage shows up daily, so companies need time to get a complete list together, he said.

And the area is likely to get more rain as a large low pressure area that was near the Yucatan Peninsula on Sunday moves north, whether or not it develops into a tropical system, the National Hurricane Center said.

Some damage already is apparent.

Cindy Wilkins says that with three feet of water in her Cash Point Party Place in north Bossier, the place will need gutting and rebuilding. But she says she cannot afford it.

The event center was fully booked before the Red rose. Now, said Wilkins, she’s working nonstop to keep her clients.

She has moved some to Faith Performance Horses in Elm Grove, but some groups don’t care for that move.

“I’ve already had a Parkway High class reunion and wedding set for October cancel their bookings after learning the event would not be at Cash Point,” Wilkins said. “I don’t hold it against them, but I can’t help there was a flood. It was out of my hands.”

And some events are likely to be too big for Faith Performance Horses. Wilkins is seeking an alternate venue but is having a hard time because of high rents.

Barge traffic between Shreveport and Alexandria is cut off because Lock and Dam No. 2 was closed Wednesday.

“We’re thinking it may be upwards of a month, month and a half before the river is navigable again,” said Port of Caddo-Bossier operations director Hugh McConnell.

Several of the port’s businesses rely on barge traffic. For instance, McConnell said, Bruce Oakley Incorporated has 22 barges full of fracking sand that cannot be delivered. Land transport would take up 1,300 truckloads, he said.

Red River Terminal’s petroleum tank farms are full. Without barges, the plant cannot move its products.

McConnell said he expects damage to railway cars and tracks, portable buildings on the docks, roadways and electrical equipment. Lock and dam systems along the river must also be cleaned and repaired before they’re useable, he said.

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