The long process of restoring the natural drainage system of the parish of Tangipahoa to pre-Ida conditions is underway.
It is estimated that 37 trees per mile are felled on the 400 miles of local water canals maintained by Consolidated Gravity Drainage District # 1 in Tangipahoa Parish. With planned financial assistance from FEMA and the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the drainage district is expected to be able to remove debris within two years as part of a three-phase project.
“We are in the process of evaluating the 400 miles of canals that we are responsible for maintaining from the main and main laterals,” said Kiley Bates, administrator of the Tangipahoa Drainage District.
A contractor is under contract to clean up hurricane debris within 56 miles of these canals, which constitutes Phase 1 of the work. Phase 2 will cover 136 miles of the main and main branch lines, which the drainage district is currently filming by drone so that it can apply to FEMA and NRCS for financial assistance with the cleanup. Phase 3 includes cleaning up the approximately 200 miles of remaining canals, which the district will continue to document, he said.
“We estimate the damage to our lateral drainage system at around $ 36 million, so federal funding is very important to us to get the job done,” Bates said.
He pointed out that this amount of damage is unprecedented and far worse than Hurricane Katrina and either of the 2016 floods.
Bates hopes to start work on the main and main branch lines in the coming months.
“We hope that all work will be completed on the 136 miles and 56 miles within the next 10 to 12 months with the remaining tributaries coming in afterwards,” he said.
Ponchatoula Creek, Yellow Water River, Skulls Creek, Selsers Creek, East Fork of Ponchatoula Creek and Bedico Creek, Washley Creek, Sims Creek and Natalbany River will be cleaned up during the first two phases of the project.
The other 200 miles of canal will be cleaned up over the course of six to eight months after the first two phases, he added.
The timing of the work depends primarily on when funding is provided by FEMA or NRCS. By then, Bates and his team are gathering all the documents needed to prove to FEMA and NRCS that there is serious damage.
The four drainage district crews have been working overtime and over the weekend since the day after the hurricane to clear major blockages across the network.
The teams are still clearing the main blockages and obstructions from the main full-backs and should continue this work over the next few months. Once they catch up with that job, they’ll focus on the full length of the ditches, Bates said.
“What people can expect with drainage in the state it is in, they expect the water to rise differently than it normally does and take a little longer to flow, ”Bates said.
Residents who notice that their home is at risk of flooding due to a possible major block impeding drainage can call the Drainage District office at (985) 542-4292.