Mayor: Drainage work under way in Patterson

PATTERSON, La. — City crews are working to correct problems, many of which originate in habits of the past, that hinder flood waters from draining out of the city, Mayor Rodney Grogan and his public works director Steve Bierhorst said.

Some issues contributing to flooding in the city during periods of heavy or extended rainfall can be remedied with the assistance of residents, while some problems are under the jurisdiction of the drainage district and the state highway department, Grogan said.

Undersized culverts, placed many years ago, impede the quick evacuation of water during storms, significantly contributing to city flooding, both men said.

“There are culverts south of the railroad tracks that are supposed to be 30 inches” in diameter, Grogan said. “Some of those are as little as 12 inches.”

The culverts were placed when there was little or no effort from the city to force residents to put in culverts that meet the drainage needs identified by engineers, Bierhorst said.

Engineer reports show lots in the 500 and 600 blocks of Mike and Leo drives should have 30-inch culverts; the culverts in that stretch run from 12 to 24 inches with the average culvert only 18 inches in diameter, Bierhorst said.

“We are digging these (undersized culverts) out as we speak with our maintenance crews,” Bierhorst said Wednesday. “We are blowing out debris hung up in some of the culverts and we will replace (smaller ones) with 24-inch culverts,” Bierhorst said. The city is footing the bill on this project and cannot afford to put down 30-inch culverts, he said.

The city is also working with landowners in the area to allow city crews to dig additional ditches and drain water to the east and west, according to Bierhorst.

“We anticipate our flooding problems will lessen very much with these actions,” Bierhorst said. But houses built lower than flood plain elevations may continue to face a risk of flooding, he said.

Grogan said the city allowed many things to happen in the past that contribute to citizens’ flooding issues now. The city will change the way it handles these issues in the future, he said.

“One of the greatest problems we have is correcting the mistakes of the past,” Grogan said.

A $50 permit that must now be obtained assures proper size culvert will be used in the future, Bierhorst said. The property owner purchases the culvert, but city workers assure it is the correct size and place it properly. When dirt is available the city will cover the culvert, he said.

Property owners who do not keep the grass cut in their ditches often contribute to restricting water flow, according to the mayor and public works director.

“People need to keep their ditches cut and not rely on the city to do it,” Bierhorst said. “We don’t have the resources or steady inmate population to do this.”

There are ditches in the city and surrounding areas that need to be cleared, cleaned and maintained that do not belong to either private property owners nor are they under the jurisdiction of the city.

“We are working with the state, parish and drainage district to assist in removing debris” from those ditches and moving flood water into the Intracoastal Canal, Grogan said.

The city is working with the drainage district to minimize the volume of water that comes down Red Cypress Road, according to Bierhorst. There is a lot of “unnecessary water” that comes from behind the high school and subdivisions by the airport, he said.

There are miles of ditches which have not been dug in 40 years, Bierhorst said. By taking action to move the water into barrow pits more efficiently and then under the highway will relieve some of the flooding pressure, he said.

City crews are looking to clean several railroad trestles of debris that blocks drainage. Some of these trestles have old pilings and other large piles of trash that need to be removed, according to Bierhorst.

Both men agree residents can give attention to small things that can make a big difference; some things might appear obvious to most people but continues to pose a problem.

“The community can keep trash out of ditches and properly dispose of garbage,” Bierhorst said. Items such as basketballs, lawn furniture and boxes find their way into drainage ditches, he said. Efforts need to be made to keep them out of ditches or once they are there to make sure they are removed. If for some reason a person observes trash in a ditch and cannot, or chooses not to, remove the trash, the city can be called and the trash can be reported, Bierhorst said.

The public works director said revisions are being made to the city’s trash ordinance, which he anticipates will reduce trash in the ditches.

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