FOX 8 Defenders: Drainage canal concerns during hurricane season

FOX 8 Defenders: Drainage canal concerns during hurricane season

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - A full month into hurricane season and already there are mounting concerns over maintenance of some New Orleans drainage canals. Some worry what's growing wild in them could put your property at risk so the FOX 8 Defenders looked for answers and action.

A quick drive down Washington Avenue past the Palmetto Canal, you can't miss it.

"I think it's gotta be addressed," business owner Emile Virgadamo said.

He's talking about weeds and other greenery, growing wild.

"It's a cement canal and they got so much shrubbery in it. If a storm does come, it's gonna take away from the purpose of what it's supposed to do," Virgadamo said.

He worries the extra growth may restrict the flow of water in a storm.

"When you have growth that comes up through the cracks in the concrete or through the grates, or whatever is there, it slows down the flow to an extent. Not terribly much, unless there are small trees," explained H.J. Bosworth, Jr., a civil engineer with Levees.org.

According to him, the Palmetto Canal is the biggest one and right in the middle of the city. It drains a significant portion of the city and flows to Pumping Station Number 6 on the parish line. From there, it gets pumped into the 17th Street Canal and then, out to Lake Pontchartrain.

WATCH: Click image for exclusive drone video of the Palmetto Canal:

The Sewerage and Water Board is responsible for maintenance, but its online grass-cutting report shows Palmetto hasn't been cut since mid-March.

Virgadamo is also worried the nearby Monticello Canal is on its way to looking the same. It too runs into the 17th Street Canal. And just North of Airline Drive, it almost looks like there's landscaping in the canal, but the patches of green are actually weeds popping up through the grates of the canal slope.

"I just kept noticing them weeds coming out them drains, and it's like where...what happened there? How they gonna drain with all those weeds in there?" Virgadamo asked.

Bosworth explained they're similar to French drains, full of gravel or rocks, and aren't meant to drain water, but to relieve pressure.

"The reason that these grates are in the canal banks is so that any groundwater that gets trapped under the canal doesn't create an unnecessary pressure to force up or lift the canal banks...the concrete canal banks," Bosworth said.

Cleaning, cutting and dredging canals on both sides of the river is a concern City Council member Kristin Gisleson Palmer voiced just last week.

"My concern is in Algiers. We have trees growing out our canals, and I don't see why we need to wait until 2019 when we're in the middle of hurricane season right now," Palmer told the S&WB at a committee meeting.

On the Westbank, a prime example of a foliage-filled canal is the Lawrence Canal. S&WB Deputy Director Vicki Rivers told council members at the June 25th meeting, their crews need more help.

"We have 23 people in the crews to cut approximately 40 plus canals, ditches and other lots that we own," she said.

For Emile Virgadamo, waiting to clean up canals that protect people and their property isn't an option, especially as we get closer to the peak of another hurricane season.

Bosworth doesn't feel residents need to worry.

"It's not a deal killer. This is not gonna cause anyone to flood I don't think, because water is going to lay the grass over more readily than the grass will really impede the flow. So it will slow it down a little bit, but not so much where we need to worry about that," Bosworth said.

He stressed, while canals should be maintained, he feels the Sewerage and Water Board has more pressing needs.

Sewerage and Water Board Director of Communications, Richard Rainey said they're re-assessing the grass-cutting schedule to make sure they address issues as soon as possible. He also stressed impact from foliage is minimal when it comes to the flow of water.

The FOX 8 Defenders staffed with volunteers from the National Council of Jewish Women also field consumer complaints at 1-877-670-6397 or you can fill out an online complaint form.

Copyright WVUE 2018.  All rights reserved.