More drainage canals in St. John to be cleared

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 12, 2011



EDGARD – More drainage canals in St. John the Baptist Parish may soon be cleared thanks to an amendment approved by the St. John the Baptist Parish Council Tuesday.

The amendment, which refines a contract with an engineering firm assisting the parish in acquiring wetlands permits to clear major drainage canals, adds seven new canals to the ongoing project.

The action expands the contract held by Royal Engineering of New Orleans by roughly $30,000 and allows the firm to seek permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the clearing of the Guss Road, Dugas, George Cousin, Gason, East End, Ben and Company canals. Parish officials said the permits allow for grubbing and snagging of all the canals, as well as dredging of the Company Canal. Four of the canals, Company, Ben, Dugas and George Cousin, are on the west bank of the parish.

The council approved contracts in February with both Royal Engineering and Krebs, LaSalle & Lamieux Inc. to help the parish secure permits with the Army Corps of Engineers for 23 canals on both the east bank and west bank of the parish. St. John Parish spokesperson Paige Braud said the firms have made the permitting process for the work go faster, which allows for the work to be done quicker. Prior to the contracts, the parish had put one person in charge of securing permits, slowing the process down.

The parish began clearing tree limbs and other debris from the canals back in 2010 by securing permits that can be renewed after five years. Many of the canals have not been cleaned in more than a decade, and parish officials say the debris is a major contributor to flooding in several neighborhoods. Braud said funding for the work was included in the 2009 bond issue and also comes from grants through the Office of Community Development for hurricanes Gustav and Ike.

Parish officials say the cleaning has made a difference already in many of the east bank canals that have undergone work. St. John Capital Projects Administrator Mike Carmouche said water levels in the canals have come down considerably, and water is draining at a faster rate than the parish had previously seen.

Some residents at the meeting Tuesday said they hope to see the same result on the west bank, where similar drainage concerns exist.

“Many of us have been asking to get these canals worked on. It is long overdue,” said Edgard resident Rosemary Williams. “We all have concerns about flooding on both sides of the river. I hope it makes a difference.”

In other action, the council delayed discussion of the parish’s $55 million budget for 2012 so current and newly elected council members can have more time to review the contents. The budget ordinance was carried over to the next meeting.

The council did approve an agreement with the state Department of Transportation and Development for a $284,000 grant through the Safe Routes to School Program. Parish President Natalie Robottom said the grant will pay for walking and bicycling conditions around LaPlace Elementary School.

Improvements include marked crosswalks, school warning lights, 5-foot-wide sidewalks with ADA accessibility requirements and striping and speed limit signs along Greenwood Drive, Evergreen Drive, Ridgefield Drive and Carrollwood Drive. Robottom said the improvements will be added after Greenwood Drive, which passes in front of LaPlace Elementary, is repaved next year.

The council also approved an agreement with the Pontchartrain Levee District that allows parish residents to participate in the annual Christmas Eve Bonfires atop the Mississippi River Levee. Bonfire participants must have a permit, which can be obtained through the parish office.