PA City Council talks solutions to flooding

Published 8:42 pm Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Port Arthur City Council Chambers were packed at the regular meeting on Tuesday night for one particular issue — an addendum added Tuesday morning to discuss flooding from this weekend and measures to take so it won’t happen again.

Mayor Derrick Freeman reported there was up to 12 inches of rain over the weekend with water getting inside some residents’ homes.

“It was devastating for all of us, but we’re looking for solutions,” he said. “We’re working with TxDOT (Texas Department of Transportation) for trucks to pick up everything.”

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Following Tropical Storm Harvey, residents had to separate the types of trash for pickup. Not so for the TxDOT trucks. Freeman said he didn’t know yet how many trucks the city would receive, but they could arrive as early as Wednesday.

He said most on the City Council and many city employees lost everything after Harvey, but they were trying to figure out solutions.

“These are the same problems (drainage) we’ve had for so many decades. There’s nothing nefarious we’re doing to the citizens. Our city staff was devastated. We’re down 50 employees across the board. I want to give a pat on the back to our city staff,” Freeman said.

He added that the city is hiring and those interested should fill out an application.

Harold Doucet Sr., District 4 Councilman, said not only did the water block streets, water was moving toward and into homes. He said the city immediately needs to start attacking the areas that flooded the worst as a priority and continue from there.

He added that one particular area in Port Acres, 67th Street, floods frequently when it rains. Doucet would like to see the city, the Jefferson County Drainage District 7 and Jefferson County get together to work out a solution.

Brian McZeal with DD7 said they also want to start immediately.

He said a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study needs to be done on the low-lying areas. He has done a light survey himself and discovered the culverts need to be enlarged. TxDOT needs to reexamine their drainage boxes, and drainage on Garnett Road needs changing out to prevent clogging.

“We’re not here to point fingers. We love Port Arthur,” McZeal said. “We don’t want to hear we’re passing the buck, or are the pumps on. It’s painful to be asked that question. When we see water inundating our neighbors the same water is inundating our homes too.”

Doucet said the areas of Palomar, El Vista and Montrose were affected too.

“I thought it was a repeat of Harvey. It was mind-boggling,” he said. “People were panicking. It’s not going to be like it was in the past. You’ll see people out there working on the problem and the City Council will be watching.”

Thomas Kinlaw III, District 3 Councilman, said his district was also hit hard.

Willie “Bae” Lewis Jr., District 5 Councilman, said a sewer line blow out creates a huge cavity. Additionally, rocks are dropped into the water and block the flow.

“The water is not getting to the pumps. Some culverts are undersized,” he said.

McZeal said DD7 exists to pump water. When the water hits a certain elevation that signals for the engine to turn on and start pumping.

Freeman said the city also needs some federal funds for hazardous mitigation — deeper culverts, lifting pump stations and fuel lines to the pump houses — for prevention.

Additionally, an $81 billion spending bill for Hurricane Harvey passed the U.S. House of Representatives, but it’s stuck in the Senate and it may not arrive until February or March.

Freeman urged residents to call their congressmen and senators to encourage them to pass that funding.