Gray Lawn residents still awaiting railway drainage repairs
The following is the first of a two-part series about a neighborhood which was inundated by the January floods and has yet to have the damaged culvert which caused the high waters repaired.
CROWLEY - Not many who were in Crowley on the evening of Jan. 10, 2013, will ever forget the flood waters that consumed the town quite literally overnight. Nearly every low-lying area in the city — and most of Acadia Parish — experienced heavy flooding which caused an extensive amount of damage to the area.
However, the residents of Gray Lawn Subdivision were not supposed to be facing any threats. Not many of the residents of the area had even bought flood insurance. Why should they? They had been told that the neighborhood was not in a flood zone and had a reliable drainage system in place if they were ever threatened.
That, however, was before the record rains of last January. Residents of the neighborhood, especially the residents on Riceland Drive, had their homes filled with water causing thousands of dollars in damage in some cases.
Mike Habetz with the Acadia Parish Drainage Board was called to the scene to try to figure out how the neighborhood which was in a flood-free zone flooded so quickly. One resident reportedly had two feet of water in his house. It didn’t take Habetz long to find out what the problem was.
“Mike found a culvert, which was supposed to be maintained by the Burlington Northern / Santa Fe Railway Company (BNSF), had a beaver dam which had the culvert 80 percent clogged,” said Elaine Robison who resides on Riceland Drive. “He tried repeatedly to call the company (BNSF) and never got a call back. That’s when we called Jack (Montoucet). They had a guy out here in 45 minutes.”
Montoucet spoke to the company representative about the problem. As it turned out, the culvert was 50 percent clogged prior to the beavers building the dam. After the dam was built it was estimated that the culvert was 80 percent full.
“He assured us it would be taken care of,” said Robison. “That was last January. Now it’s September and we’re looking at a weekend where they say there could be flash flooding. I think that if it rains six inches in a short amount of time it will cause some major problems. If it was 80 percent clogged in January, no telling how clogged it is today.”
When a BNSF spokesman Joseph Faulst was contacted Friday, he acknowledged that repairs were “supposed to have begun in August but were pushed back.” When asked why he stated that he had to “look over some notes and call us (The Crowley Post-Signal) back.”
When Faulst did call back, he stated that “he had been in contact with a Mike Habetz (he spelled his name H-i-b-b-e-t-s) and was told that there was a major problem out there.
“We had planned on having it repaired (in August) before the rainy season but I think the misunderstanding was that someone thought that’s when the bidding would start,” said Faulst. “We begin the project within a scope of about 30 days depending on the weather. The replacement will be a two-culvert system which will provide much better drainage to the area.”
Aside from the fact that most Louisianians are unaware of an existing “rainy season,” Robison was more concerned with what may happen before the work crews arrive.
“Like I said, if it rains approximately six inches in a short amount of time we will have water in our homes,” she said. “And I wouldn’t even want to think about what would happen should a hurricane head this way.”
The Post-Signal will run a second part to this story in its Tuesday edition.