Two meetings bring citizens and organizations together

Published 11:13 am Tuesday, July 3, 2018

By Dawn Burleigh

The Orange Leader


Two meetings on Thursday had the one topic – drainage.

Both meetings were well attended with the morning meeting held in the Commissioners Courtroom was standing room only with several people in the hallways hoping to hear bits of pieces during the two and half hour meeting.

An evening meeting held at the Expo Center had approximately 200 people seeking answers during the almost four-hour meeting.

The meetings were described as informative by persons on both sides of the drainage issues which have increasingly become an larger issue since Hurricane Ike and a major concern since Hurricane Harvey.

Orange County Drainage District General Manager Don Carona said the district was aware of struggling areas.

“Today we are hearing of specific streets and neighborhoods,” Carona said. “We have to work together with the different entities. We are studying not just our outages but the marsh damage as well. A restoration project is impacting the drainage and we need to work with Texas Park and Wildlife to restore the drainage to the way it use to be.”

Carona stressed the need for the restoration project was needed.

Texas Parks and Wildlife is aware of the issue and is cooperating in finding a solution.

Orange County Judge Dean Crooks said infrastructure is one of the greatest challenges the county faces in attracting businesses.

“We are here to address this challenge so businesses want to build and grow here,” Crooks said. “We also want to protect our citizens and their homes. Our citizens have shown they are the most strongest, resilient in the world.”

Ideas suggested during the meeting included a Hydrology Study to be conducted by developers of new business and residential areas.

In the context of hydraulic design, hydrologic analysis provides estimates of flood magnitudes as a result of precipitation. These estimates consider processes in a watershed that transform precipitation to runoff and that transport water through the system to a project’s location, according to TxDOT.

“Our enemy is not in this room,” Crooks added. “It is outside these walls to bring flooding rains to this area again. The goal is to create solutions to drainage problems. Please note this is the beginning of our effort to improve drainage issues, not the end.”

Representatives from city, state and county entities were present including the Orange County Drainage District and each precinct, Texas Parks and Wildlife, Sabine River Authority, Neches River Authority, County and City Road and Bridge department leaders, Mayors, Public Works Departments, TxDOT, Congressman Brian Babin’s Office, City Managers as well as Orange County Commissioners Court.

“We are a small entity but we take a proactive approach on drainage issues,” Pinehurst City Administrator Robbie Hood said. “We take responsibility of our problems and our citizens needs. Public Woks Department is proactive in resolving drainage issues until the immediate are meet and it can be addressed with Federal funding through FEMA.”

While drainage improvements were in the works prior to Harvey, the historic storm has slowed the progress.

“Harvey set us back,” Don Carona said. “Not just drainage, but everyone. We had made really good improvements before Harvey. The damage from Harvey is expensive.”

Orange County Drainage District is responsible for 600 miles of drainage ditches through out Orange County.

Another suggested was a central person for citizens to reach out to concerning drainage issues.

Several residents expressed frustration with not knowing who to call when the water was not draining properly.

In more than one incident, the county maintained one side of the property, while another side was the drainage district and another side could fall under TxDOT.

The meeting was also an opportunity to connect citizens with the people who could address their needs.

In one case, Bridge City Mayor took a lady’s contact number so he could send crews out to address the immediate needs.

“It is a problem area and we are working on it,” Bridge City Mayor David Rutledge said. “Anyone in Bridge City, catch after the meeting so I can get your name and address and get crews out there.”

And while many problem areas, the different entities were aware, the public was also made aware of other outlying issues such as the drainage of the Bessie Heights Ditch.

“The south end of the ditch is damaged,” Drainage District General Manager Don Carona said. “All the hurricanes have cumulative damage. There is more damage and more silt. We are investigating long and short term options.”

For one resident, it may not be enough as last week his home flooded for the third time in 11 months.

“When I went to get a permit, I was asked why I bought that house,” the man said. “I found out it had flooded 11 times. I am tired. I can’t go out of town because I don’t know if this rain will flood my house again and I try to save my furniture again.”

Many residents pointed out the drainage has become worse since Hurricane Harvey or the building of a structure from a 911 tower, a business or the change in design of the interstate.

In several cases, the issue was a multi agency problem. In those instances, the agencies were speaking and working towards solutions showing the lines of communications were opening between them and with citizens.

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