Parish waits on OK to clear Hope Canal

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 7, 2010



LAPLACE – St. John the Baptist Parish officials say they are awaiting word from the Lafourche Parish Levee District and the Federal Emergency Management Agency before starting work to clear trees and other debris from the Hope Canal, a major drainage outlet for Reserve and Garyville.

The Hope Canal is one of several drainage tributaries on the east bank that feed rainwater from parish neighborhoods into the Reserve Relief Canal and out to Lakes Pontchartrain and Maurepas. The canals run through protected wetlands and require a permit for cleanup work. The parish secured the permit to begin work back in April and has already started and completed work on other major canals in LaPlace.

“Cleaning the Hope Canal is going to help drainage issues in Reserve, Garyville and Mt Airy tremendously,” said Parish Danny Millet, who represents those areas. “I am glad that more than two years of hard work and diligence finally paid off.”

St. John Parish financial advisor Pat McTopy said the parish is working out a deal with the Lafourche Levee District to see if it can get the work done in a timely manner. He said this permit is different from other permits for canal cleanup in that the parish must remove all cleared debris from the work area.

“When we did work on the canals in the LaPlace area, we were able to drop natural vegetation on the banks of the canals to create a spoil bank,” McTopy said. “That is not the case with the Hope Canal. We need to haul everything out.”

McTopy said the project could end up costing somewhere in the neighborhood of $300,000, but he said the parish is likely eligible to receive reimbursement from FEMA through a relief fund from Hurricanes Gustav and Ike.

Since the beginning of 2010, the parish has been securing permits begun work to clear all 28 major drainage canals that serve the east and west banks of the parish. McTopy said work crews have been clearing large logs, trees, branches and other debris that has collected over the past 15 years.

“Water levels in some of our open canals and ditches are at their lowest levels in quite some time,” he said.

Parish officials have said administrators are looking into a general use permit that would cover all canals on the east and west banks of the parish so that individual permits to do work would no longer be necessary. The parish is looking to secure at least a five-year permit so that annual regular clearing could be done ahead of hurricane season.