EDITORIAL — Drainage efforts protect Port Arthur

Published 12:08 am Saturday, July 6, 2019

Ironic — isn’t it? — that on the last day of the Mayor Derrick Freeman administration, Port Arthur City Councilmembers took necessary steps to fund drainage projects to alleviate Port Acres flooding. That tightly knit community vehemently opposed Freeman’s reelection.

That doesn’t mean that if 60 inches of rain were to fall on Jefferson County again — Harvey in 2017 was the largest recorded downpour in U.S. history — Port Acres wouldn’t get wet. Nor does it mean that if Port Acres people continue to throw trash in their ditches — that has been a common lament from Port Acres politician Chuck Vincent — they won’t overflow.

What all of that means is the wheels of government grind slowly. At least in this case, they also seemed to grind deliberately and eventually for the public good.

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The municipal government this week took the right steps in working with the federal government to secure funding to offset drainage challenges in three locations: El Vista, which flooded badly during Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey; Port Acres; and Lake Arthur.

In total, drainage projects in those three locations will cost some $26 million. The city secured funds for engineering and design efforts on the projects — Port Arthur will receive $1,651,002 from Community Development Block Grant funds for that — and if the design work is done properly and timely, the city will receive the balance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Culvert work will focus on 11 streets in El Vista, 12 in Port Acres and additional work will take place at Lake Arthur, increasing capacity there to hold overflow water until it can be safely released.

Application — in this case, successful — started for Port Arthur last autumn. So no matter who fussed publicly about drainage before the election, efforts were already underway to address drainage problems.

We all should be delighted to see flood-affected areas get this relief. We should hope drainage relief proposed will be long-lasting and beneficial. No one deserves to be flooded.

But Port Arthur people, too, have obligations going forward about how to protect themselves. For one, slab housing in flood areas has proven to be a problem. Local architect Alam Farias has told us raising homes off the ground enables the ground to absorb water. That’s how recovery homes are being built: above the flood level. Smart.

We need to keep our ditches clean and cut, too, not just in Port Acres but everywhere. We need to be vigilant with culverts. We need to be careful about development.

Engineering around Babe Zaharias golf course is enabling ponds there to offset Jimmy Johnson Boulevard flooding. That’s an improvement, too.

The coast is ever in danger of flooding. Port Arthur has taken smart steps. But drainage is a stubborn opponent and ought never be overlooked.