After almost 40 years, Jackson County is getting back into the dredging business. Supervisors recently bought a brand new dredge to help maintain county waterways.
Nearly four decades ago the county had its own dredge. Since then contractors have done most of the work. County residents like Ira Weaver, who lives on Sweatman Bayou, are glad to hear the county has finally bought a dredge.
"Normally high tide amounts to about a couple of inches in this bayou," says Weaver as he looks out over the Bayou from the backyard of his Gautier home.
"In the deeper part of the channel you may have a foot of depth of water, but over there in the flat area it would barely cover it three or four inches."
When Weaver moved here almost 40 years ago the bayou's water was four to five feet deep in most places.
"These bayous have been filled in by tropical storms, hurricanes and natural runoff that have silted in this bayou," says Weaver.
As the depth of the water gradually went down, the taxes went up on Weaver's waterfront property.
"So now this is a bayou property with no water," says Weaver.
"They came back to us and said, 'Well, if you're going to take our money, we want our canals cleaned out," says District 3 Supervisor Tim Broussard.
Broussard says there's about 500,000 cubic yards of sediment that needs to be removed from county water ways. Broussard hopes the new dredge will do two things. First, make property owners happy and second, solve some serious drainage problems.
"The canals are filled in," says Broussard. "There's no place for the water to go. It spills out over the banks and floods low lying areas."
Broussard says the county should be able to handle its dredging needs in five years, and in the process save taxpayers millions.
"If we went out and hired the same production, it would cost us about $10 million, and we figured we could do it for a little $2 million," says Broussard.
That's a big payoff for taxpayers. And for property owners like Ira Weaver, a chance once again to enjoy the natural resources that drew him here 40 years ago.