Raywood residents raise concerns that debris-filled ditches are causing flooding

Jimmy Belt (right) shares his concerns with Liberty County Drainage District No. 2 board members and the District's newly-appointed attorney Brandon Davis at a meeting on Aug. 25.

A small group of residents living in the Raywood area confronted Liberty County Drainage District No. 2 board members Wednesday, Aug. 25, with concerns that ditches are not being cleaned and are to blame for major flooding during weather events.

“My questions for the board are the same as they were last month about CR 1900 – the main drainage ditch being cleaned from the south side of CR 1900 to US 90. That part of the ditch has not been maintained or cleaned in at least 25 years,” said resident Jimmy Belt.

Belt was one of a handful of residents who first brought their concerns to the board at a public meeting in August.

A longtime peace officer, Belt has owned his property on CR 1900 for 30 years, throughout which he has paid hundreds of dollars annually in ad valorem taxes to the District. Over the last three decades, he claims that the drainage district has not once cleaned out the main drainage ditch in his community on the south side of CR 1900. This neglect has allowed large trees to grow in and along the ditch, which is now slowing the flow of water. The backed-up ditches have cost residents their homes and caused damage to properties, including his home, which was flooded during Tropical Storm Imelda.

“When I talked to some of you board members many months ago, you said you were going to try to do something about the ditch. I know we had some rainy weather this spring and at the beginning of summer, but it’s getting to the point now where it’s dry enough for something to be done,” Belt said. “In June, I got 10 inches of water on my property because of that ditch being backed up. I am here again today to ask that you please get some maintenance done on that section of the ditch.”

Belt claims the District appears to be more concerned about farmland on the south side of US 90.

“It’s about two miles from my house to US 90. Where all these farmers are, you can roll marbles in the ditch – that’s how clean they are. We pay taxes like everyone else. Why aren’t we being taken care of?” Belt told Bluebonnet News.

Belt’s neighbor, Angela Myres, said the drainage issues have caused major flooding on two of her properties, destroying the contents of two houses. She claims that past efforts to clean out a ditch near one property has rendered her pasture virtually unusable for livestock because water cannot flow off of the property and into the ditch due to large 30-foot berms left behind by District crews.

“They cleaned the ditches 30 years ago and just sat all that material on the property, so now the property cannot drain,” she said. “They keep telling us that they don’t clean up the debris for everyone, but I said, ‘What do you mean? You can’t just pile the dirt up there and expect us to remove it.'”

In their efforts to find out how their tax dollars are being spent, residents have begun sending in public information requests to the District’s board. Over a nearly seven-year period from Jan. 1, 2015, to Aug. 26, 2021, Liberty County Drainage District No. 2 has collected $1,928,922.60 in ad valorem taxes. These residents want to see a complete accounting for their tax dollars.

The new oversight and an effort to make sure the District is keeping up with all legal matters prompted the District board on Aug. 25 to hire the Liberty-based Law Office of Fielder, Gunter and Davis. The District has set a public meeting for 6 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 31, at the District’s office, 43 CR 1190, Raywood. The public is invited to attend. Residents will be allowed to ask questions of the District board.

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