Due to the attention the Hwy 74 project has received in the last couple of days, I thought it was important to put out a public statement of what occurred to dispel the rumors. Wednesday evening, the drainage staff was notified by DOTD that water was on the south lane of Hwy 74 and a warning sign was put up. I personally went to look at the location to determine the gravity of the situation. Water was on the road and some on the apron of the Oak Alley Subdivision’s most western entrance. This was nothing like the conditions during the May 2021 flood, but was visible.
It is important to point out that as shown in the model provided by HNTB (which was done before the cut), this area normally flows north into the Spanish Lake Basin.
I did notice water flowing through the 36” culvert under Hwy 74, and decided to see if we blocked the culvert from flowing into Spanish Lake basin would it provide a sense of calm for the residents of Bluff Swamp and Spanish Lake since they have gone through such a challenging situation in dealing with the flood of May 2021. This was only to be temporary until the next morning when we could close the cut joining New River and Morgan Swamp. I instructed the crew to remain on site to see the effects of closing the culvert.
Water began to rise a couple of inches on to Hwy 74 and the apron of Oak Alley. I was notified and instructed the crew to pulled the debris and plywood used to block the culvert approximately an hour after it was put down. The water equalized and went back to normal the following morning. I instructed the crews to remain on site and flag traffic and put addition traffic signs out until the water receded.
At no time was any resident at risk of flooding property or their lives put in danger. Compared to what the residents of Baton Rouge experienced as a result of Tropical Storm Nicholas rains where they had to kayak in their streets, I understand this may seem trivial, however I felt it was best to address the rumors to put our residents’ minds at ease.
I do want to point out what a tremendous job our crews and staff did throughout Hurricane Ida and Tropical Storm Nicholas, not a single structure flooded except a chronic flooded structure in the Town of Sorrento. I am not sure that are neighboring parishes can say the same, due to they are struggling with flood waters and power outages.
The one good thing, that did come out of this situation was an acknowledgement of how the Hwy 74 project is needed. This project includes a pumping station New River pumping water into the Mississippi River, box culverts with flap gates under Hwy 74 and a control structure in the cut joining New River to Hwy 74.
This project will provide immediate relief to Geismar and the Dutchtown area for flashing flood as well as major storm events. It will also provide relief for the City of Gonzales and St. Amant, due to the fact that water pumped in the Mississippi River will not have to travel through these areas to get to the Marvin Braud Pumping Station. It will also benefit Iberville, East Baton Rouge, Livingston and St. James as they will also benefit from these flood waters going into the Mississippi River. A true five Parish benefit.
My hope is that the East Ascension Drainage Board will not only support this project, but take the lead in insuring its construction and success. In my opinion, this project will be as monumental as the Marvin Braud Pumping station and levee system in the 1980’s. This project will be presented this coming Monday, the 20th at the Drainage meeting. I encourage every resident to watch the virtual meeting to be informed and hopefully answer any question you may have. We are on a great path to providing drainage relief to the western part of our parish, my only hope is that we continue on this path in unified front to insure success.
As always, stay informed and God Bless
Parish President Clint Cointment