Boaters fight to have debris in Petite Amite cleared

Debris in Petit Amite
Debris in Petit Amite
Larry O'Neill looks at debris piles on Petit Amite
Larry O'Neill looks at debris piles on Petit Amite

LIVINGSTON PARISH, LA (WAFB) - People who live along a small bayou off the Amite River believe their elected leaders are ignoring a big problem.

Hurricane debris keeps piling up.

Homeowners are concerned a plan that is supposed to improve flooding will only hurt them.

Randy Piper and his buddy Larry O'Neill have geared up for two mile cruise on the Petite Amite.

"We're headed up towards (highway) 22 on the Petite Amite. We're going to try to make it as far as we can," Piper said.

They used to pack fishing poles and ice chests for their excursion to the Amite River. But these days they have got just the bare necessities on board, life jackets and paddles.

"A lot of people used to come through here with big boats and go see their buddies and all, and they can't do that no more," Piper explained.

The channel is shallow. The debris is heavy. Silt is building along the banks making it a chore for Piper and other boaters to navigate the river.

"Now this might get a little rough so just kind of get on your knees if you don't mind," Piper asked.

Piper gets stuck and has to maneuver his motor through the vegetation and debris buried beneath his boat.

"Just hang on. Hang on. We're all good," Piper said.

Piper said he and other boaters have created a manmade path through the river with chainsaws.

"But over the years it just got overwhelming. You got so much debris and stuff to where it's just overwhelming for us to try to tackle the task," Piper said.

Roger Harris, who also lives along the river, said he can't remember the last time he put his boat in the water.

"It all started with (hurricane) Andrew. Those storms kept coming," Harris said.

Harris said he spends most of his time farming but sometimes he said the huge tree toppled over in the Petite Amite just behind his house creates a little excitement.

"There's been four people got hung up right there in the last three weeks," Harris said.

There is a clearing in the distance, a perfect environment for bird watching. Piper warns the trip to paradise can be hell.

"If you're not used to the water you just can't come back here and just ride through here and try to make it through here," Piper said.

River watchers said the debris is flushed into their backyards through pumps in Ascension Parish that funnel water to the Amite River. When the water recedes they are left with debris. They said it's been piling up for decades and they can't seem to get state or parish leaders to do anything about it.

"I told them just come in here with any equipment you want and you can just throw it up on my land and get it out of the bayou," Harris said.

Ascension Parish is about to add a sixth pump in Sorrento. Residents in lower Livingston Parish believe that will only make matters worse for them. Piper believes someone should tend to Livingston's problem first.

"We want out bayou cleaned like it was when we moved here. That's why we moved here, was for the wildlife the fishing, the kids to enjoy it to where you can go walk in your backyard, climb in your boat get your fishing gear and take your boy or girl down the bayou and go fishing," Piper said.

It's a request Piper and his neighbors hope is granted sooner than later.

Livingston Parish President Layton Ricks said the debris will be cleared once he gets federal funding from Hurricane Isaac.

Meantime, Ricks said he is working with leaders in surrounding parishes to come up with a plan that will protect lower Livingston better during storms.

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