LIVINGSTON - Livingston Parish will receive $3.5 million in federal grant money to reimburse it for work it hopes to begin this fall to clear several waterways of trees that were swept off banks and into the water by the strong currents of the flood of 2016.
The Tickfaw River, from Tickfaw State Park to the St. Helena Parish line; Colyell Creek, from Buddy Ellis Road to East Colyell Creek; and the Natalbany River, from La. 22 to Interstate 12 will be cleared of the tree debris, Mark Harrell, director of the Livingston Parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, told Parish Council members Thursday.
The federal funding will reimburse Livingston for money the parish spends upfront to clear the waterways and represents 90 percent of the cost of the project, Harrell said. The federal monies are coming from the U.S. Department of Agriculture through the National Resources Conservation Service program, Harrell said.
Harrell said the parish originally requested $7 million to pay for the work, but the Department of Agriculture turned down funding requests to clear another portion of Colyell Creek, along with King George Bayou and Lizard Creek because the projects did not meet required criteria, federal officials said.
Harrell said another portion of the Natalbany River also was not approved for clearing work, but the parish is continuing to negotiate to get it approved and has turned to the office of U.S. Rep. Garrett Graves, R-Baton Rouge, for assistance.
"A flood of that size and the currents being so strong, it pulled a lot of trees into the waterways," Harrell said Friday. "It clogs everything up."
In just "one small stretch of Natalbany that is being cleared from La. 22 to I-12, our surveys estimate 19,000 cubic yards of vegetation — trees. It's all trees," he said.
Harrell said the parish has started the required permitting process for the project with both the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and the U.S. Corps of Engineers.
It's expected that the contractor, Ceres Environmental Services, will begin the work in November or December, Harrell told Parish Council members Thursday.
"I'm very excited this money has been appropriated for that," Council Chairman Tracy Gillinghouse said after the meeting.
"It's a major problem," he said of the tree debris in the parish waterways.