Livingston Parish continues Hurricane Ida response

Part of a roof rests on the ground after being blown off a structure in Albany following Hurricane Ida on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021.

About two months after Hurricane Ida hit, contractors are approaching 1 million cubic yards of collected debris in Livingston Parish.

But some members of the Livingston Parish Council say some parts of their districts have seen slow progress — if any at all — as heaps of debris continue to line streets in their communities.

Brandi Janes, director of the Livingston Parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (LOHSEP), gave the parish council an update on debris pickup from the destructive storm during its meeting on Oct. 28.

The meeting was held nearly two months to the day after Ida struck southeast Louisiana, shifted east, and moved directly through Livingston Parish, with the eye passing just by the Town of Livingston.

Though it had weakened substantially after making landfall as a Category 4 storm by the time it hit Livingston Parish, the National Hurricane Center has reported that Ida was still packing sustained winds of 85 mph — with gusts up to 100 mph — when it passed through the area. The storm toppled countless trees and damaged hundreds of structures.

Debris pickup has been ongoing since early September. Cleanup is occurring on every parish-owned road by the parish debris contractor Ceres Environmental, which has assisted the parish in debris cleanup for several years, including after the historic 2016 flood.

In Thursday’s meeting, Janes said contractors have so far collected 930,000 cubic yards of debris in the parish, up by about 230,000 from her last update two weeks before. There are currently 40 double trucks operating mostly on the eastern side and southeastern sides of the parish, which Janes noted were “the hardest hit” areas.

Contractors are picking up vegetative debris — which includes leaves, logs, plants, bushes, brush, and tree branches — as well as construction and demolition (C&D) debris, such as building materials, carpet, drywall, furniture, lumber, and plumbing.

For those who live on state roads within the parish, their debris is being picked up by the Department of Transportation and Development’s (DOTD) contractor. Likewise, the City of Denham Springs has its own debris contact with Ceres within city limits.

Janes said contractors informed her that they would cease operations “for a bit” on Nov. 19 before starting up again on Dec. 6, which will be the last pass. Janes said she doesn’t know how long the final run will last.

However, a few council members, most notably Randy Delatte of District 8, expressed frustration with the slow progress being made more than 60 days after the hurricane hit, saying some of their constituents still have large piles of debris on their property.

Delatte said only half of his district — which encompasses the southeastern part of the parish, including Killian, Springfield, and Maurepas — has had debris picked up and that cleanup has slowed recently. He questioned how much more would get picked up before contractors pause operations in a few weeks.

“Some places haven’t been picked up once yet,” Delatte said. “Much less twice.”

Gerald McMorris, of District 6, requested a list of roads that could be cleaned in the next few weeks. He cited Ben Jones Road as an example of one that “can’t get done because of debris hanging on the edge. All they did was clear a pathway.”

McMorris said the contracting company should provide more clarity on debris pickup.

“If we hired this company, I think we need some kind of direction,” McMorris said.

In related news, Janes informed council members that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has said it will not fund waterway debris cleanup, which now forces the parish to turn to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

Janes said she expects to send a packet next week to NRCS, which she hopes will enable the entity to address the “biggest waterways.” The good news, Janes said, is the parish won’t be required to get a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for waterways that were previously cleaned.

A hotline has yet to be made for residents to call with their debris concerns, though Janes has said her office is “answering the phone all day” to assist residents with their questions. She is trying to set up a debris hotline soon.

“There isn’t a number yet, but people have been calling all day long, every day,” Janes said. “People have been calling our office and we’re not ignoring them.”

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