By Karen Gadbois, The Lens staff writer |

The first not-so-subtle signs of a massive drainage project on Claiborne Avenue near the Jefferson Parish line cropped up in the past week. Or rather were cropped down.

This is the view from Cambronne Street, looking upriver toward Jefferson Parish. Photo by Karen Gadbois.

Nine blocks of trees and plantings have been clear cut along the neutral ground, the first step in tearing up the median and installing a new drainage canal below.

Along with some large oaks, many clusters of oleander bushes and pampas grass are now gone. The bushes and trees absorbed noise and provided shade, and neighbors expressed concerns about the future replanting of the wide, grassy area.

This section of Claiborne Avenue, looking downtown from Cambronne Street, should be clear cut in the next six months, down to Lowerline Street. Photo by Karen Gadbois

The drainage project is part of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Control Program, commonly know as SELA, a project of the Army Corp of Engineers and the Sewerage & Water Board. The new canal will help provide drainage to the Carrollton and neighborhoods.

Project Manager Lori Wingate admitted that the public notice of the tree cutting was insufficient and that the last public meeting had been held at Loyola University more than a year ago.

She said another general meeting will be held in January to discuss the project, but that it was necessary to cut the vegetation in order to accommodate the heavy equipment and detours that will be necessary.

Wingate said the public meetings were organized by the Sewerage & Water Board, and that she had no knowledge of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Engagement, the agency tasked with communicating with neighborhood organizations.

The first phase of the underground canal project takes it from the parish line to Cambronne Street, which is about halfway to Carrollton Avenue.

This was the scene along Napoleon Avenue when a similar project was undertaken several years ago. Photo by Karen Gadbois

In 2004, a similar project took place on a portion of Claiborne Avenue at Napoleon Avenue, which left the neutral ground devoid of trees and plantings for years because there was no dedicated funding. Wingate said the next phase of the project does have such funding and she hopes “there won’t be a problem” with the replanting portion of the project.

Wingate said the neutral ground will be cleared for the second phase of the project in the next six months. That stretch is from Cambronne to Lowerline Street.

Karen Gadbois

Karen Gadbois co-founded The Lens. She now covers New Orleans government issues and writes about land use. With television reporter Lee Zurik she exposed widespread misuse of city recovery funds and led...