Ditch project underway to alleviate flooding

Crews have begun widening the Belfield Ditch in central Moss Bluff, a large-scale project designed to allow it to hold more water and prevent more than 160 homes from flooding during a 50-year storm.

The roughly $5 million project calls for widening the ditch nearly 1.5 miles from North Perkins Ferry Road to just east of Belfield Road. Jennifer Cobian, senior finance analyst for the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury, said the width will range from 85 feet to 55 feet.

Work began in March, with excavation work starting earlier this week, Cobian said. The project should take about a year to finish, she said.

The project saw its share of delays over the years and was revised several times during the FEMA review process, Cobian said. Acquiring wetland permits from the Army Corps of Engineers also extended the construction timeline.

“The end result made the project much larger than it was initially,” Cobian said. “Originally, it was a 55-foot bench cut along the whole ditch.”

A report from C.H. Fenstermaker and Associates said widening the ditch would reduce flooding for 370 acres in the Moss Bluff area, in the event of a 50-year storm. Cobian said it will have “no negative impact to land or waterways in and around the Belfield Ditch.”

“There will be no rise in any channels and no additional water on any property,” she said.

Kevin White, Calcasieu police juror for District 1, said widening the ditch is “going to help tremendously” with draining stormwater during heavy rains.

“There were ditch improvements done years back, but this is going to blow it out of the park,” he said. “We don’t have enough space for water to go anymore. This is going to solve a lot of problems residents are facing in terms of flooding.”

Seventy-five percent of the project’s funding came from FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program awarded to Calcasieu Parish after Hurricane Ike, Cobian said. The Gravity Drainage District 8 of Ward 1 was the grant’s sub-recipient. The remaining 25 percent was paid for with a combination of state capital outlay dollars, the parish Road and Drainage Trust Fund and parish gaming funds.

“We’re very fortunate to get this project funded by FEMA to this extent,” Cobian said. “It’s very much a win for the parish.”

The bulk of the project’s cost came from wetland mitigation and purchasing rights-of-way along the existing ditch.

Cobian said some roads will be closed once crews begin replacing the cross section at Belfield Road and Stafford Road. She said crews will be removing the existing culverts and replacing them with larger ones.

Cobian said the project falls in line with the Police Jury’s initiative to improve drainage parishwide.

“It’s a good time to get this project going, even though we’ve been working on it for quite a while,” she said.

White acknowledged that other drainage improvement projects in Moss Bluff — including the rebuilding of Armand Ditch and building detention ponds — are needed. But he asked residents to be patient as the process moves forward.

“Everything takes time; nothing really happens overnight,” White said.

 
 

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