By JOSH NEWTON
A couple of long-cluttered drainage ditches near Downing Street and the Bertha Parker Bypass were cleared out Friday by the city’s street department, but the city’s storm water and flood plain manager voiced concerns about the work in its early stages.
Street department employees began working early Friday morning on the drainage ditch that runs parallel – or north and south – to Woodlawn Avenue and the Bertha Parker Bypass, from the backside of Pizza Hut to East Shawnee Street. They also cleaned debris from a smaller ditch that connects on the east side and extends toward the bypass.
“We got a complaint from a resident up there that brush was causing a lot of problems with their drainage,” said Tahlequah Street Commissioner Mike Corn. “It’s been an ongoing problem. I got the call about four or five months ago and was just now able to get around to it.”
Corn said employees in the street department believed they had a right to go onto the 25-foot drainage easement, which was granted to the city in 1989, to clean up the ditches.
Clinton Johnson, who oversees the city’s storm water and flood plain issues, became concerned when he saw the work Friday morning.
“The north and south [ditch] is in the flood plain,” Johnson said.
“You can clear things out, but you can’t add any fill to it, and the way it looked when I pulled up [at the site], it was all dirt. I couldn’t tell if that was just where they cleared off the grass and brush, or if they had pushed dirt down in there. According to [street department employees], it was just from where they had excavated and scraped off the grass.”
The second and smaller ditch, which extends to the east toward the bypass, is not in the flood plain, Johnson said.
“It’s just a storm ditch that hasn’t been regulated by [the Federal Emergency Management Agency],” said Johnson.
Corn said the street department placed seeds and hay in the area in an attempt to encourage grass growth, which would allow the city to mow the drainage easement.
“That won’t be a problem,” Johnson said. “It’s OK, they just missed the proper channels.”
Because of the flood plain and storm water issues with the north-south drainage ditch, Johnson said he should have been notified of the street department’s plans to clean the area before work began.