Parish digging out of drainage problems

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 2, 2009


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE – St. John Public Works employees are digging their way through an aggressive excavation project to clean out 11 main drainage canals and several smaller neighborhood ditches across the parish’s east and west banks.

Parish President Bill Hubbard started the project in December as part of a promise to improve drainage and minimize flooding in the event of a torrential rainstorm or tropical disturbance. He said some of the canals had not been cleaned in almost 15 years.

“Our drainage works with the assistance of gravity with the canals sloping toward the lake,” said Hubbard. “If there is debris blocking the water from flowing, it has no place to go but into streets and homes. In order for the canals to work, they need regular maintenance.”

Budget figures from the last few years show that the parish was not putting much into drainage work. St. John Public Information Officer Buddy Boe said in 2006, the parish only spent $24,000 on drainage improvements and the number was progressively lower in the years before. He said since then, the parish has consistently added more funding to drainage. He said the 2009 budget has the parish spending $1.15 million on improvements.

Boe said Hubbard’s project includes work on two major canals in LaPlace, five in Reserve and four in Garyville. He said a large canal along Castle Drive in Edgard will also receive work in addition to various other smaller connecting ditches parish wide.

“Work will concentrate on the sections of the canals that can be seen by the residents,” said Boe. “We are trying to do the most parish wide that we can, starting with the worst portions of the canals.”

Boe said the most extensive work is being done on the Montz Canal, near Highway 51 in LaPlace, and an entire stretch of a ditch that runs along Church Street in Garyville, which, Boe said, hadn’t been cleaned out since it was dug out.

“We have been pulling entire trees out of some of these canals,” Boe said. “That shows you how long it has been since they have gotten work.”

In addition to clearing out all vegetation, Boe said the parish is making sure that the canals slope down correctly so that water can flow out of the residential areas as quickly as possible. He said something as simple as a misplaced culvert could impede water flow if it is positioned too high. He also said overgrowth of vegetation slows down grass cutters and makes things more cluttered.

“When you have a big tree growing along the canal the grass cutters have to cut around it,” Boe said. “This limits the area that can be cleared and further prevents water flow.”

The next step in the project is getting clearance to conduct work on the portions of the canals that run into the wetlands on the lake side of Interstate 10. Boe said the parish needs special permission from the state and special “floating machinery” to do the work. He said it is an extensive process that may take a few more years to complete. He said Hubbard set a goal to have every major canal cleared by the end of his first term, which concludes in 2012.