More money dedicated for drainage

The amount of money set aside to improve drainage in Lake Charles has nearly doubled in the last two years, as officials strive to be more proactive, rather than simply responding to reported problems.

Dedicated funding went from $2.95 million in the 2017 fiscal year to $5.27 million in the 2018 fiscal year, Mayor Nic Hunter said Tuesday. The increase largely came from the city getting more sales tax revenue and some additional gambling revenue. The current fiscal year has $5.7 million budgeted for those improvements, he said.

“This administration has been very adamant that drainage is a priority,” Hunter said. “A lot of the stuff that we’re spending money on is underground, so sometimes people just don’t see it.”

Mike Huber, city director of planning and engineering, said the public works department has cleaned more than 74,000 feet of roadside ditches.

The amount of underground piping cleaned went from 8,742 feet in 2017 to 48,000 feet last year. Huber said 324 cubic yards of sediment were removed last year, impacting 8 percent of the city, or 3.52 square miles.

Older areas of the city with the dirtiest underground lines are getting the most attention, Hunter said. Prior to cleaning, the Baton Rouge-based Atakapa Services used 3D closed-circuit television to inspect underground pipelines. He said Enterprise Boulevard was identified as a “hot spot” for repeated flooding in the city.

“Some of the lines that we’re looking at are 75-80 years old, and we don’t believe they’ve been cleaned in many years,” he said.

The work ranges from routine cleaning of sediment from a pipe, to excavating and replacing completely collapsed pipes, Huber said.

The city’s inspection of drainage systems has grown, along with identifying and scheduling maintenance projects. Hunter said the city also continues to work with other agencies, like the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury and gravity drainage districts, in protecting homes and businesses from flooding.

“Water truly doesn’t know political boundaries,” he said.

Huber said the city hired Fenstermaker and Associates last year to review all roadside ditches and eventually create a database to prioritize future projects. Drawings have also been updated as lines are monitored.

Hunter said a homeowner on Guinn Street in North Lake Charles had reported flooding four times in the last two years. Since an improvement project was finished there last year, he said there have been no reports of flooding.

“Not only are we spending money, but we’re seeing success,” he said. “It’s not going to happen overnight, but it is going to continue to improve the city.”

Huber asked residents who live near ongoing improvement projects to be patient.

“There will be some inconvenience to the public,” he said.””

Crews use a camera to find obstructions in drainage pipes at the corner of Moss Street and Broad Street in Lake Charles, La., Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019. (Rick Hickman/Lake Charles American Press)

Rick Hickman””

Crews use a camera to find obstructions in drainage pipes at the corner of Moss Street and Broad Street in Lake Charles, La., Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019. (Rick Hickman/Lake Charles American Press)

Rick Hickman””

In this file photo, crews use a camera to find obstructions in drainage pipes at the corner of Moss Street and Broad Street in Lake Charles, La., Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019. (Rick Hickman/Lake Charles American Press)

Rick Hickman

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