St. Bernard Parish preparing for possible flooding despite manpower shortage

St. Bernard Parish preparing for possible flooding despite manpower shortage

ST. BERNARD PARISH, LA (WVUE) - St. Bernard Parish employees spent Wednesday going street by street cleaning all catch basins.

"They're making sure that we have no debris clogging up our internal drainage system," said St. Bernard Parish President Guy McInnis. "St. Bernard Parish gets the water to Southeast Levee Protection canals.

The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority - East is responsible for the parish's drainage system.

"We are currently at 83-percent of the pumping capacity down there," said Derek Boese with Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority - East.

Three of the parish's 28 pumps are currently not working, but the flood authority says work is being done to fix them. McInnis says a decrease in manpower has been an issue. Currently, there are seven pump operators, down from 15 last year.

"They have their own budget," said McInnis. "We have failed two tax millages over the past two years so they had to cut back on their operations."

There are eight pumping stations throughout St. Bernard Parish.

"They work generally four ten hour days and alternate shifts as required," said Boese.

According to the Flood Authority, only four of the eight pumping stations are manned at any given time, but the flood authority is preparing for Harvey, just in case.

"We'll pump down the canals and do that in a precautionary measure," said Boese. "We'll bring in additional staff and put them on notice to take care of any issues that may arise and as the storm gets closer."

The biggest problem facing the drainage system is a lack of funding. Right now both sides, the Flood Authority and the parish, are negotiating for the parish to take over the drainage system.

"We collect $3.5-million in St. Bernard Parish for levees and drainage, their priority is levees," said McInnis. "They are spending $1.3-million right now on the entire drainage system in St. Bernard Parish."

McInnis believes about $2.5-million should be spent on drainage.

"We have an obligation to maintain the Federal system at a certain level and we try to balance that with taking car of the pumping stations in St. Bernard," said Boese.

"So we're working on that," said McInnis. "When you're talking about moving money across parish lines, it gets sticky in local politics and we're working through that right now.

McInnis says that he is confident a deal will be reached for the parish to take over the drainage system by the end of the year.

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