Drainage cleanup to help reduce flooding

Published 3:18 pm Thursday, November 12, 2009

Cleanup of about eight drainage areas in Pearl River County is expected to help reduce flooding during heavy rains.

The drainage areas have been clogged with vegetative debris since Hurricane Katrina, which restricts water flow. Pearl River County Planning and Development Director Ed Pinero Jr., said the debris created partial dams that kept water from draining to the Pearl River as it should.

The project has been underway for about two months, Pinero said. County Engineer Les Dungan said he expects the project to be completed by the end of this month.

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The USDA National Resource Conservation Service-funded project became a reality shortly after supervisors Sandy Kane Smith and Patrick Lee came into office. Smith said the effort was one of the things he and Lee wanted to see completed if they were elected. After winning the election, Smith said conversations about funding took place with Dungan and others and the application to the USDA was submitted. Smith said Dungan proposed applying to the USDA for the NRCS funds. After the $710,000 grant was approved, it took about a year to secure right of way easements from the 150 property owners that adjoined each watershed, Dungan said.

Right of way easements gave the company that won the bid, HSI Inc., two years of access to affected properties and the right to conduct the cleanup, Dungan said. So far the project is about 90 percent complete and about $600,000 has been used.

The vegetative debris was removed during the cleanup without digging into the watersheds, and the wood was chipped up and discharged back into the area. Smith said smaller debris, if it reenters a watershed, can easily be carried off by flowing water. If the debris had not been chipped, then it could have clogged the watershed and caused the water to back up again.

The work will have cleared eight tributaries when complete, including an unnamed tributary in the Sycamore community, Little Sycamore Branch and its tributary, Holley Creek, Bay Branch, Alligator Branch first and second and a tributary off of second Alligator Branch, Dungan said.

Dungan said there was cooperation from the landowners, which was needed to conduct the work.

“If we couldn’t clean from one end to the other, then we’d have a problem,” Dungan said. “It would have diminished the effectiveness of the project.”

Altogether, the project will clear about 18 miles of county watersheds, most of which are just outside of Picayune. Already Dungan has noticed an increase in the flow of water. So has Vernon Randolph who signed the right of way form. Randolph said the rain that fell during Tropical Storm Ida did not back up to his fence as it usually does during similar rain events.

Randolph said in 1995 his house flooded, so he appreciated the help.

“Anything to help drainage in the back of my house is a plus,” Randolph said.

Smith said the next step will be to work on getting Hobolochitto Creek cleaned out. So far he has had general discussions with U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor, D-4th, who suggested Smith contact the U.S. Coast Guard. Smith said that if the Coast Guard is able to help, it might bring in a helicopter to lift the large pieces of debris from Boley Creek as part of a training exercise.

Lee was unavailable for comment Wednesday afternoon.