Operation Clean Sweep begins

Waterways in parish to be cleaned of debris

August 20, 2008 at 9:31 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

FEMA and the Coast Guard will make a final sweep of the parish’s waterways to cleanup debris like limbs or objects underwater.
FEMA and the Coast Guard will make a final sweep of the parish’s waterways to cleanup debris like limbs or objects underwater.
The waterways of St. Charles Parish will finally be rid of hurricane debris. That's because FEMA has partnered with the Louisiana Coast Guard to do one final sweep and make sure the rivers and bayous are free of Hurricane Rita and Katrina remnants that could pose a safety hazard.

“We are making one last attempt to clean up the debris-laden water in the area,” Kerry Demeris, a Louisiana Homeland Security spokesman, said. “Any objects left floating in the parish in bodies of water three to four feet deep and 50 feet wide or greater will be eligible for  cleanup.”

Demeris says the parish’s Public Works Department has a set of maps that will help identify some of those areas.

“We're also working with the local emergency center in the parish to coordinate this cleanup effort,” he said.
Tab Troxler, the director of the parish's Emergency Operations Center, says we don't have a whole lot of river debris in this parish.

“The program will allow the removal of things like limbs or objects underwater identified as post-hurricane debris,” Troxler said. “Things like tree limbs or old refrigerators or other types of debris that might have wound up in the waterways will be removed.”

In January, two commercial fishermen were heading back from Lake Cataouatche when their boat struck something buried in the water in Sellers Canal. The canal serves as a popular commercial and recreational fishing spot for families. One of the men, Joseph Fonseca, was severely injured.

“This project can certainly help look into that waterway if it is found to be either Hurricane Katrina or Rita related,” Troxler said. “Once we identify areas that need to be cleared of the debris, those services will be contracted out for cleanup removal.

 “People can call the EOC office if they know where some debris in a waterway is that needs to be picked up. We'll get the message to the right person to have it taken care of.”

The Louisiana Marine Debris program relies heavily on local residents who use Louisiana's waterways for commercial and recreational purposes to report dangerous debris. Debris that is not reported will not be considered for removal by the USCG.

FEMA obligated nearly $122 million to help clean the Mississippi River's coastal and inland waterways following Katrina. The Coast Guard Debris Inter-Agency Agreement (IAA) oversees the wet debris removal program, while private contractors bid to do the work.

St. Charles Parish is one of 28 other parishes eligible for the marine debris removal program. Residents are urged to contact the Emergency Operations Center at 985-783-5050 if they spot debris in a waterway.

View other articles written Shonna Riggs

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