Cointment v. Lawler: Can parish president do Drainage Plan more efficiently than HNTB?

Ascension President Clint Cointment

There’s a storm brewing that will land Monday at East Ascension Drainage Board’s first meeting of 2021.  President Clint Cointment was none too happy when Prairieville’s Councilman Aaron Lawler aired grievances publicly, taking a shot at Cointment via social media before eliciting help from a Baton Rouge television station.  The controversy’s cause…adding dollars to an existing, but mostly dormant, contract with HNTB engineers to generate a Floodplain Master Plan.

Lawler declared he has “lost patience with the current Parish President who wants to delay this so more studies and analysis can be done…”  Cointment, arguing against wasteful spending, announced that his administration will unveil its plan to have “a Drainage Master Plan by the end of 2021” while eliminating “duplication of efforts.”

A brief history of HNTB’s relationship with Ascension Parish is in order.

On October 6, 2014 HNTB was awarded the Levee Accreditation and Mapping Procedure (LAMP) contract, “not to exceed $150,000.”  Four years, and $3,326,258 later Ascension’s levees were not accredited and the initial contract price was exceeded (x22).  If there was no data accumulated, no modeling done,  one would be hard-pressed to discern what the parish received in return for those taxpayer dollars.  The last item added to the contract was $200,000 on October 22, 2018 when HNTB was tasked to propose projects for funding through a federal grant that would become Louisiana Watershed Initiative.

HNTB was awarded the current Floodplain Management Plan project, approved by EA Drainage Commission on August 7, 2017 in a “not to exceed amount of $400,000.”  Comparatively frugal, the contract was increased by Amendment No. 1 “to include Task Order No. 2 in the amount of $1,204,375 with a (new) total amount of $1,954,375.”  Is Task Order 2 the same as Task 2 in the current proposal (see below)?  Who knows since it is virtually impossible to track how the money flowed in past administrations.

“Over the past 10 years, close to $10,000,000 has been spent on data collection and modeling in various drainage basins throughout the parish,” Cointment wrote.  “We should not have to pay for this data twice.”

Lawler issued a warning that water from East Baton Rouge, flowing more efficiently (and faster) toward Ascension after adoption of its own Drainage Master Plan (a plan concocted by HNTB, as it happens and, apparently, without regard to adverse effects to Ascension Parish).  These facts, argues the Prairieville councilman, render it imperative for Ascension to follow suit.  A few months back, though, the price-tag was supposed to be $2.19 million.

Most of the $10,000,000 figure cited by Cointment has been pocketed by HNTB as the president argues against “redundancy and overlap” included in HNTB’s most recent proposal.  He points to Tasks 2, 3 and 4(B); (see below) in particular; Tasks 5-7; and deeming Task 1 wasteful, per se.  The firm summarized its ($3,446,100) proposal for EA Drainage consideration:

Ascension Parish Floodplain Management Plan

The project will be the development of the Floodplain Management Plan based on the Implementation Plan prepared in Task Order 01. The analyses will be conducted for the 4 watersheds, based on previous models development:

1. Bayou Conway/Panama Canal (BC/PC)
2. Marvin Braud System
3. Henderson Bayou
4. Bayou Manchac

The Floodplain Management Plan will follow the guidelines in the Implementation Plan, based on FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program Community Rating System Coordinator’s Manual, FIA-15/2017. The specific tasks for Floodplain Management Plan are discussed below.

Task 1:  Project Management & Coordination

General project management and coordination as well as quality management, project meetings, steering committee development and meetings, project partners identification and quarterly meetings and elected officials coordination and periodic meetings: $227,900.00

Task 2:  Data Collection & Acquisition

Channel survey including cross sections, profile and structure surveys of bridges and culverts. This will include survey to supplement survey data previously collected. Information will be input into a GIS format as well as include survey summary reports: $596,000.00

Task 3:  Design Criteria & Methodology

This task includes evaluating and determining design criteria for updating and refining the Parish-wide HECRAS 2D hydrology and hydraulic model previously developed as well as determining design criteria for individual watersheds analysis. It will include project development and prioritization methodology and criteria: $67,800.00.

Task 4:  Flood Hazard Assessment

This will include:

A. The development of preliminary risk assessment map based on historical flood inundation, critical infrastructure and structure flood history: $32,600.00
B. Updating the Parish-wide HEC-RAS 2D hydrology and hydraulic model previously developed. It also includes the development of 1D/2D HEC-RAS models for each of the watersheds utilizing the existing models as the basis for development. It includes incorporating new survey data and model validation and calibration to determine the existing flood risk for multiple events: $553,300.00
C. Development of Flood Zone Designations Maps: $243,500.00

Task 5:  Identify Problems and Develop Risk Mitigation Strategies

This task consists of utilizing the HEC-RAS models to identify additional flooding problems and risk reduction needs. It includes identification of preliminary list of mitigation strategies (projects/policies), screening and development of final list of mitigation strategies for each watershed. It will include preliminary engineering and design, cost estimates and benefit cost analysis for each strategy and then Parish wide prioritization of the strategies: $1,128,000.00

Task 6:  Floodplain Management Plan

This task includes preparation of the final plan that includes: Planning Process and Project Background; Risk Assessment; Modeling, Flood Hazard Assessment, Mitigation Strategies and Plan Maintenance. A summary for each watershed will be developed. $311,000.00

Task 7:  20-Year Stormwater Capital Improvement Plan

Based on results performed for the FMP and prioritized list of strategies and projects determined in Task 5, the 20-Year Stormwater Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) will be developed. The capital improvements plan will include a Funding Plan which will consider current funding methods as well as other strategies and trends: $256,000.00

Expenses:  $30,000

Total:  $3,446,100

You can find the full complete HNTB proposal at:  https://ascensionparishla.civicclerk.com/Web/GenFile.aspx?ad=1594

HNTB projects a 540-day schedule from receipt of Notice to Proceed.

Tune in to Monday’s East Ascension Drainage Commission meeting for what could be an interesting show.

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