Board eyes contract to clear clogged waterways in Ascension

The East Ascension Drainage Board agreed Monday to start contract negotiations with a Gonzales firm to clear out clogged waterways in the southern end of the parish.

However, work may not begin until the latter part of the year.

The $1.5 million project would remove bayou muck, fallen trees and other debris that can act as dams impeding the flow of Panama Canal and Bayou Conway in the southern part of East Ascension, parish drainage officials said.

The waterways drain the Darrow and Burnside areas, including such major subdivisions along La. 44 as Pelican Point. They carry runoff to Blind River and surrounding swampland in St. James Parish.

Randy Clouatre, an Ascension Parish councilman who is chairman of the Drainage
Board, said parish officials met recently with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and learned that work on each waterway would require two different kinds of permits — a standard wetlands permit allowing general maintenance and another kind of permit that is reserved for navigable waterways.

Bill Roux, East Ascension drainage director, said the lower part of each bayou is a navigable waterway.

The permit for navigable waterways focuses more closely on protecting overhanging forest canopy along the bayous for the benefit of fisheries and requires a longer public comment period and more public notice, Clouatre and Roux said.

“It looks now like it’ll be the last quarter of this year before we actually can put people there doing the project because of permitting issues,” Roux said.

He said the work, which would extend to where the waterways cross under I-10 near its intersection with Airline Highway, should hold up for the next five to 10 years.

Roux said after the meeting that the only other time the waterways had been similarly cleared was through a Natural Resources Conservation Service grant that was received after Hurricane Gustav in 2008.

But he said that job was limited to debris that fell during the hurricane.

East Ascension drainage officials handled the new project as a professional services contract, and not as a public works bid. An Ascension Parish government administrative panel ranked four firms seeking the job.

Chem Spray South Inc. of Gonzales scored the highest, a score sheet says.

The Board of Commissioners followed the review panel’s recommendation, 6-0. Council members Chris Loar, Kent Schexnaydre, Benny Johnson and Teri Casso were absent.