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Homeowners tired of waiting on EBR Parish to clean ditches take matters into own hands

Published: Jun. 18, 2021 at 6:01 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - With storm clouds brewing, homeowners in the Old Jefferson neighborhood decided they could no longer wait on parish workers to come clean the drainage ditch running parallel with the community.

The ditch is behind the homes on Proxie Dr. During May’s flood inducing downpour it swelled and sent water rushing across the street and into people’s homes.

“I sent a text message to my dad at 8:40 saying it’s getting close,” said Jared Schweinefus. “By 9:03 it was in my house.”

Schweinefus had three inches of water inside his home. It caused $58,000 dollars’ worth of damage.

“I’m not happy about it, no,” he said. “And speaking with the neighbor across the street she’s been complaining about it since 2016 and everything we’ve gotten and answer back from area 8 council was, they send people out to spray for weeds, that’s all they can do.”

Tom Patterson said multiple homeowners have reported the ditch that has become overrun by tangled thickets, fallen trees, and debris. He said the reports appear to have been passed over.

“We had put in work orders to have this ditch along the west side of Proxie Dr. cleaned out so that the drain water that came out of the woods and into the ditch did not get obstructed and go into people’s yards and down into the road,” Patterson said.

A spokesperson with Mayor-President’s office said the ditch gets sprayed with an herbicide twice a year to cutdown on the vegetative growth. He also said that the recently announced $20 million drainage initiative includes the clearing and grubbing of Claycut Bayou, which this neighborhood drains into. Apart of that project, feeder ditches, but the spokesperson could not say if this specific drainage ditch would be included.

Instead of waiting for those projects, homeowners in the Old Jefferson neighborhood decided they would clean the ditch, clearing it of all the debris.

“We got with the neighbors and we decided just to come out here and clean it ourselves since no one else wanted to do it,” said Charles Carson, whose house had minor water damage from May’s storms.

Equipped with shovels, chainsaws, and rakes, the group spent the better part of Friday morning racing to get the ditch cleared. Their goal, make sure whatever comes their way this weekend is able to drain without flooding anyone.

“It’s real hot but we’ve got to get it done to keep our houses from getting flooded,” Carson said.

According East Baton Rouge’s department of public works, it inspected every city-parish street ahead of the rain events this weekend. DPW crews have reportedly also been focused on 311 reports. A spokesman says the goal is to complete 100% of the requests by the end of the year. Last year the parish completed 83% of those.

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