Ascension Parish clearing Bayou Conway to improve drainage

Martin McConnell works for the parish and says the problem is something called "snagging" (Source: WAFB)
Martin McConnell works for the parish and says the problem is something called "snagging" (Source: WAFB)

ASCENSION PARISH, LA (WAFB) - "Mother nature would take over," Martin McConnell said, looking out over the banks of Bayou Conway from a boat as it glides across the water.

Piles of foliage jut out from the edges where trees have fallen into the waterway. In some places, weeds have grown over the piles to form small islands of debris. But those islands act more like dams, slowing the natural drainage from the bayou through Lake Maurepas, into Lake Pontchartrain and finally, into the Gulf of Mexico.

"If we have all of the ditches and drainage canals in the northern part of the parish working well, but it gets bottle necked when it comes down here, it defeats the whole purpose," said McConnell, who works for Ascension Parish.

It's a problem called "snagging." It's when floating foliage is caught on the dead branches of trees submerged underwater. It can cause bodies of water to back up and flood. McConnell says blocked passageways played a significant role in the 2016 flooding.

"We had that terrible rain on Friday and Saturday, but the flooding didn't start for a couple of more days in many places because it was backwater," he said.

Contracted workers use chainsaws to cut the trees up before they wench them out and rake the remaining debris to the banks. Projects like this have been funded by the same property tax since 1958. Crews of six or seven can clear about three trees each day.

"If you start out fat, you won't be for long," McConnell chuckled. "The workers are very dedicated because they all live in Ascension Parish too."

And when a tree falls in the bayou, they'll know.

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