SPRINGFIELD – Work begins this week on the first phase of a federally funded $3.5 million waterway cleanup which will ease flooding during heavy rain events.

Cleanup efforts have been underway since the immediate aftermath of the August 2016 flood to implement the cleanup, Livingston Parish President Layton Ricks said.

“It takes time to get funding, get out and start cleaning up,” he said at the site along a landing on the Tickfaw River. “It will make a huge difference in cleaning out the waterways.”

The Natural Resources Conservation Service funding will cover Natalbany from La. 22 to Interstate 12, as well as the Tickfaw River from the state park to the St. Helena line, and from Colyell down to Buddy Ellis Road and back to Colyell Bay.

The project comes in the wake of the August 2016 flood, the worst natural disaster on record for Livingston Parish. It dropped more than 31 inches of rain to the area in less than 36 hours and flooded more than 80 percent of the structures.

The process will not involve dredging, but will pluck out logs, debris and limbs hanging along the water, which will enable easier boat traffic and waterflow during heavy rain events, Ricks said.

“It’s a good day in Livingston Parish to get things started in relation to flood control,” he said. “Removing debris and getting the water to flow more freely will make a major difference.”

Livingston Parish paid out $354,116 as part of its 10 percent share of the project, according to Mark Harrell, director of the Livingston Parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

The funding process took more than two years and involved contacts with numerous federal officials, he said.

“This is a huge project for us,” Harrell said. “Some of these areas have never been cleaned.”

The project is covered by the federal funds allotted to the NRCS through the United States Department of Agriculture.

Contractors from Ceres Environmental Services of Brooklyn Park, Minn., will carry out the project, which has a six-month window for completion, according to Ceres project manager Stan Bloodworth. NRCS will periodically inspect the work, he said.

The project will involve three barges – two large vessels and a small one – which will use grapple to scoop up limbs and other debris from the waterways. 

“This is going to be a large job, one that will continue for a while,” he said. “The time frame will depend largely on weather and river stages, but if the weather behaves we should be able to finish the job early.”

Barges with a knuckle-boom will cut the tree at the butt, without getting the root ball. It will drag the debris onto the barge little by little, Bloodworth said.

The barge will offload at a bulkhead owned by a private landowner who is permitted to take in the debris, which trucks will pick up for disposal.

Ceres implemented the last cleanup in the area in October 2015 along several miles of the Tickfaw River, Black Creek and Lizard Creek, but not to the magnitude of the current project, Bloodworth said.

The areas are represented by Livingston Parish Council members Jeff Averett, Tab Lobell and Shane Mack.

The Livingston Parish Council submitted a list of 35 tributaries, but the worklist that will begin this week represents what the NRCS approved, Lobell said.

“Do we wish everything would be covered?” Lobell said. “Yes. But some is better than none.”

The Tickfaw River was the last area to get the flood water during the August event, which put the area at a disadvantage because flooding in other areas had spread the parish resources thin by that time, Lobell said.

Mack, who represents a portion of the area along the Tickfaw, said he could not recall in his lifetime when the Tickfaw had been cleaned to the St. Helena line.

“This is a great day for the people in Livingston Parish who have property along these waterways, and whose property drains into these waterways,” he said. “After the August flood, it was apparent that the water flow down the Natalbany and Tickfaw was restricted, so moving water through here at a faster rate is the single greatest thing we can do to minimize flooding.

“This is only the beginning to get money to reduce flooding in the future,” Mack said. “I’m proud of Layton and Mark for going after these funds and working with elected officials to come together.”

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