Ascension Parish/City of Gonzales secure Watershed Initiative funding/permits for drainage projects

Mapped drainage channels highlighted in blue.

Last week US Army Corps of Engineers issued a permit to begin work on long-neglected Boyle Bayou, part of a more comprehensive effort to alleviate drainage/flooding concerns bedeviling residents of south Ascension Parish, east of the Mississippi River.  It is only a start if a mix of officials (state legislators, elected parish and municipal figures, and appointed Pontchartrain Levee District members) are successful.

The Boyle Bayou project is virtually meaningless without larger scale corrective measures undertaken.  A conduit in the pure gravity flow drainage system south of Hwy 30, which flows into Bayou Conway to the southeast, Boyle Bayou is choked with silt in spots preventing a bateau’s progress.

As with any project of magnitude, funding is always the most formidable hurdle to clear.

In two meetings hosted by the City of Gonzales, and coordinated by State Representative Kathy Edmonston, specific projects were identified, reliant on the local share from Louisiana Watershed Initiative’s $1.2 billion.  Allocated through a 2018 Community Development Block Grant totaling $28 billion, itself appropriated as part of annual funding for the Federal Aviation Administration, whose to say when/if local projects might actually receive the funding.  An alphabet soup of state agencies in the mix, 54 parishes are eligible for funding.

Ascension Parish proposed a $22 million project that would extend the levee system near Hwy 70 (south of Sorrento) with a new pumping station to relieve backwater events.  Getting water into south-Ascension swamps more efficiently has been a goal of Parish President Clint Cointment’s since first seeking office in 2015.  Currently, affected areas are served by gravity drainage exclusively.

The City of Gonzales, in concert with Pontchartrain Levee District, proposed a $12 million project to the Watershed Initiative which envisions a series of detention basins…

Detention basins identified by blue circles. Blue line-Panama Canal; Red line-Bayou Conway; Green line-Boyle Bayou and other laterals

to “store and manage large quantities of storm-water during intense rain events.”  The proposal was made possible by the acquisition of every property on Silverleaf Street, parallel to Hwy 30 a few tenths of a mile south, where flooding seemed to occur after every major rain event.  The deal, which required every property owner to sell in return for monies provided through US Department of Agriculture, was completed in September with a stated goal to “return the property to its natural state.”

Never before, at least not within this writer’s recollection, has the City of Gonzales been so engaged in drainage improvement.

Gonzales is considering a pumping system to alleviate the overburdened drainage along Hwy 44/Burnside, the idea being to move water into “Bayou Francois outfall.”  The city intends to apply to the Statewide Flood Control Program administered by Louisiana DOTD which is updating relevant flood maps, verifying culvert sizes, etc. in anticipation.

There is a joint city/parish effort ongoing to develop a plan for cleaning out lateral drainage channels.  Along with Representative Edmonston and Senator Bill Cassidy, the Corps of Engineers participated in a recent video conference to further effort with an eye toward the all-important permitting process.

The deadline to apply for Louisiana Watershed Initiative for funding was recently extended from January 22 to February 26.  While Ascension Parish has met requirements for allocation better than just about any of those others 53 parishes, that has never accessed state coffers as politicos descend on the Capital with their hands out.  Governor John Bel Edwards has not, in the first five years of his tenure, been much of a friend to Ascension.

In compliance with directives, local interests have identified specific projects while neighboring parishes have done little, other than blocking maneuvers.

How much longer will Ascension allow Livingston Parish to employ its stall tactics on Laurel Ridge Levee Extension?  The levee extension project received the go-ahead from the Corps a few years ago, leading Livingston to file suit seeking to enjoin the project in the 19th Judicial District (Baton Rouge).  The case has languished without any action being taken by either side for too long.