LIVINGSTON PARISH, LA (WAFB) - People who live along a waterway off the Amite River are breathing a huge sigh of relief. They contacted 9 News after they said their elected leaders were ignoring a big problem. A problem that centered on piles of hurricane debris buried in the bayou.
The Petit Amite is a serene two mile stretch of water that has been a sanctuary where locals enjoy bird watching, fishing and cruising the river. But when high winds and rain roll through it creates a nautical nightmare for boaters. Randy Piper and his friend Larry O'Neill have paddled through the worst of it.
"Once that grass grows, across it acts like a trap along with the trees. It just made it difficult for even a boat to get through," piper said.
The landscape is changing right before their eyes. For two weeks Livingston Parish workers have been cutting, clearing and collecting debris from the bayou and its banks. Even they are now able to power their motors to get the job done.
"You can go. You can go up through there and you don't have to jump over trees. You don't have to paddle through and around stuff and worry about your boat getting caught up in trees. It's just a huge relief," O'Neill said.
Homeowners said the channel isn't just for recreational purposes; it also serves as an outlet when their properties flood during major storms.
"This is our road. When our streets are full of water then we move to the bayou. That's our traffic in and out here," piper said.
"If they hadn't gotten these trees out and another hurricane comes and put more trees in the bayou then everybody who lives back here would be stuck," O'Neill said.
The men say the debris is flushed into the Petit Amite through pumps in ascension parish that divert water to the Amite River. Property owners here are concerned new pumps at the Sorrento site will only push more overflow and debris into their yards, which is why they say it's so important the parish is doing this now.
"They are not finished by any means but this is a giant step forward," O'Neill said.
The current cleanup is expected to wrap in a week.
Parish President Layton Ricks said the coast guard will make a second pass as soon as federal funding comes in. FEMA recently awarded Livingston Parish $365,000 to clear debris in the Petit Amite.