JEFFERSON PARISH, La. — As a new hurricane season begins, there are still thousands of people in south Louisiana, digging out from Hurricane Ida in 2021.
Help is now on the way for residents in lower Jefferson Parish who have been struggling with storm debris in the water for nearly two years.
Kerry Lauricella lives on a canal along the banks of Bayou Barataria.
“These canals are probably 2 feet deep,” Lauricella said. “We should be seven or eight feet deep.”
He says from what he’s seen from his backyard, waterways in lower Jefferson are full of debris and dangerous.
“Just in the past month I’ve seen one boat come out of the pen here and he came around the bend and he hit that little obstruction right there and took the whole motor off the back of his boat.”
Fellow Barataria resident Mike Wiley knows the dangers firsthand.
Recently he and his wife went out for an evening cruise in their boat and hit a large island of marsh mud and tree limbs.
Neighbors have now marked what’s known as a floaton with sticks and an orange traffic cone.
“We hit the island and we flew off,” Wiley said. “She flew out of the boat, and I had to pick her up and put her back in the boat. Kind of hurt her back.”
The chunks of debris in the water are remnants of Ida which smacked lower Jefferson with 150-mile-per-hour winds and about a 7-foot storm surge.
The JP council has now approved a resolution authorizing the state to enter into a cost-sharing agreement with FEMA.
That’s expected to kick start dredging operations and debris removal along Bayou Barataria, the canals in the Lafitte-Barataria area and the bay northwest of Grand Isle.
“It pays to run all the surveys, so they can see what’s in there and it pays to come through these canals and dig all of the debris out,” Lauricella said.
“We’ve been asking for a while to get it done,” Wiley said. “We’re trying to get everybody to try and do it, so it sounds good that somebody wants to do something for us.”
After nearly two years, folks in lower Jefferson were beginning to think people may have forgotten about them and what they went through with Ida. They say the new debris removal agreement gives them hope.
“This is our light at the end of the tunnel,” Lauricella said. “It’s a multi-million-dollar light at the end of the tunnel. Very encouraging.”
The cost of the work is now estimated to be about $11 million.
FEMA will now reimburse the parish for 90 percent of the cost of debris removal with the state picking up the remaining 10 percent.
Before the parish can bid out the contract, it will need approval from both FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers.