Bayou Lapping At Residents Back Door - | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

02/25/05 - Shelby County

Bayou Lapping At Residents Back Door

by Donna McCollum

Silas residents in Shelby County may soon step out their doors into a lake. Problems with a flood prevention dam is ironically flooding them out of their property and homes.

All month a homemade "Road Closed" sign has hung on the front gate of Maggie Crump's property. "This is the access to my home which is right over there," Crump said as she walked down her drive. But suddenly the road stops leading into a deep lake. "That's where I live," Crump said as she pointed about a 1/4 a mile away.

Relative and neighbor, Bob Crump fears he'll soon have the same problem. "The only way I'll be able to get out is a tractor through a pasture."

Helen Billingsly is hemmed out of her rural property too. "I can't get to it because the road is covered. You can't even see the fence posts."

And at the Pierce's you need a boat to sit in the yard. Lawn furniture floats in the rising water. Jean Pierce normally looks over a much shallower flood plain lake. Now it's lapping near her back door. "A week or so would be different, but My Lord!, we've had this since 3 months."

Residents blame the government for not keeping debris out of overflow pipes under a flood prevention dam, built across Bear Bayou back in the 60's. "Either me or my family one has always had to clean out that spillway down there," said Glenn Pierce. But Mr Pierce is now 82 and wants the government to do the job.

District Conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, a branch of the United States Department of Agriculture, Al Schmidt said, "We understand the landowners concern that the water backed up farther than it should be and we're doing all we can."

The blocked pipe is deep underwater, so siphon pipes were installed. But they too get blocked. Engineers say until the water goes down nothing can be done.

Schmidt said he didn't learn of the problem until after the pipe was covered with water. Residents say they've been calling the agency for months.

The water is high upstream of the Silas dam, but conservationists say the water level is still within the agency's impoundment easement. Residents fear if heavy rains continue that won't be the case.

Residents understand that Bear Bayou will flood from time to time, but they say you can't totally blame this kind of backup only on the weather.

Maggie Crump's advice is to, "Maintain (it) in the way it was designed, than this wouldn't happen because it's flood control--this isn't flood control."

So Mrs. Crump will hike a half mile to her home through an alternate entrance. Around here, lake front property isn't all it's cracked up to be.

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