Flooding concerns Gramercy residents

Published 11:45 pm Tuesday, June 3, 2014

By Stephen Hemelt

GRAMERCY — An unofficial count of more than 25 homes and businesses in Gramercy impacted by last week’s heavy rains and accompanying flood waters has many in the northeastern St. James Parish town aggravated, according to parish leaders.

St. James District 1 Councilman Alvin St. Pierre, a Gramercy resident and former town alderman, said there were some areas in the town flooded last week that had never before experienced an issue with rising water.

“I’m disappointed that we got some water into residences that usually don’t see water,” St. Pierre said. “It was a (weather) event, in which talking with an engineer, that was described to me as a 200-year event.

“I talked to some residents, and they are disappointed they did receive water in their homes; however, they are aware we have done a lot of drainage work in Gramercy in the last two years.”

Reports received indicate the Gramercy water plant was flooded with seven inches of rain in one hour and 13 inches in six hours during the weather’s heaving downpour May 27 and 28.

St. Pierre said Central Canal, which runs from Airline Highway all the way west, goes through Gramercy Recreation, is culverted and is a bottle neck.

“We have decided to spend close to $800,000 to put new drainage in, which goes across the cane fields to the old hot water ditch,” St. Pierre said. “The parish will dig this out, and this will be extra drainage for Gramercy, and I’m trying to get this in before hurricane season. That was the plan.”

Last week’s heavy rain did not make things easy for parish officials, who are trying to explain to area residents they are trying to improve drainage, but the work is not finished.

“We figure we have at least another two months of work to do before it is all finished up,” St. Pierre said. “We did have some people that flooded during Hurricane Isaac that flooded again. That was bad. They actually got flooded worse for this event then they did for Hurricane Isaac.

“It is not something I am real proud of. I thought we were moving in the right direction; we just haven’t quite got there yet. This rain event just kind of compounded why we need another drainage in District 1 and Gramercy.”

St. Pierre said, weather permitting, new drainage work should be complete by Aug. 1. He said the contractor has to put culverts in, and the parish is going to dig the cross canal and high water ditch.

“We are waiting on land-owner permission to start digging this cross canal,” St. Pierre said. “We have to go through cane fields, and it has kind of been holding us up. But I don’t think that would have helped out the situation we are in right now.”

Splitting that flow of water going through Central Canal to another location with new concrete culverts that are five by eight feet should take a lot of water, St. Pierre said.

“We’re counting on that, engineering wise, to alleviate past problems we have had in that area,” St. Pierre said.

District 7 Councilman James Brazan said his district was very lucky because it is largely situated to the back and Southside of St. James Parish.

“We didn’t have that much water and rain,” he said. “We’re actually starting to get backwater into my district. We started to pump (Monday) in Vacherie. Some parts of St. James had 14 inches of rain, and in my district we had maybe seven inches. That is not a big number difference, but it is a big bulk of water.”

Councilman Ken Brass, the District 6 representative and Vacherie resident, said around ten homes took in floodwater in the area of Vacherie and Louisiana 20.

“(The residents have) all been in contact with Red Cross over the weekend,” Brass said. “Red Cross handed out cleanup kits. In addition, the United Way will be providing some funding to the parish to help our residents that were impacted by the floodwaters.”

Brass said he was pleased parish crews were up and running throughout the storm.

“Red Cross came in and did their assessments Friday with people on the ground,” he said. “Everybody came together in a fairly timely manner to respond to the issue.”