During Thursday’s meeting of Ascension’s Council, held virtually as the parish’s most recent COVID-19 positivity rate reached 22%, a major piece of drainage business was accomplished. A unanimous approval of the Intergovernmental Agreement with Pontchartrain Levee District to undertake the Hwy 22 Gapping Project, $42 million worth of funding through the Louisiana Watershed Initiative (LWI) earmarked in 2020. East Ascension Drainage District, the third signatory to the agreement, is scheduled to consider the project at its regularly scheduled August meeting on Monday.
LA Hwy 22 functions as a barrier impeding natural hydrology in the Amite River floodplain. The highway prevents the natural flow of water into the adjacent McElroy Swamp, increases surface elevation in the river and exacerbates area flood risk. The LA Hwy 22 Bridge Construction and Drainage Improvements project includes the construction of two bridge structures and the excavation of two drainage basins for the purpose of improving local hydrology, reducing area flood risk and restoring the McElroy Swamp.
According to LWI’s project worksheet:
“In 2020, the Louisiana Watershed Initiative’s five coordinating state agencies selected 15 projects to receive $163 million in federal funding. The projects were selected because they align with the missions of these agencies and the long-term resilience objectives of LWI. Specifically, the projects will reduce flood risk in communities throughout the state, store floodwaters in ways that enhance natural habitats and move people in flood-prone areas out of harm’s way. As the granting agency of these funds, the Louisiana Office of Community Development reviewed the projects
to ensure they meet HUD requirements and align with the state’s $1.2 billion CDBG-MIT Action Plan.”
The project is located in Provisional Watershed Region 7, which includes 13 parishes in eastern Louisiana among the Mississippi River, Lake Pontchartrain and Mississippi. Those portions of La. Hwy. 22 impacted by the project are located near Bayou Terrace in St. Amant
The funding, part of LWI’s Round 1 allocations, triggered the compromise between Ascension and Livingston parishes in settlement of the latter’s lawsuit seeking to enjoin Laurel Ridge Levee’s extension.
The contractual language includes:
“The proposed LA22 Gapping Project is the placing of two selective trapezoidal cuts through the Highway 22 ridge, one near the intersection of the Laurel Ridge Levee and Highway 22 and the other along Highway 22 closer to the Amite River Diversion Canal. The plan and specifications are in design and PLD, APG and EACGDD1 agree to review and approve the final design.”
Going forward the agreement envisions:
- PLD shall obtain the permits in name of PLD at its costs and expenses. Prior to submitting Parish shall approve the design and permit application.
- PLD shall advertise and seek public bids for construction and shall award the construction contract in accordance with state law. EACGDD1 and APG shall approve the public bid solicitation prior to advertisement. The advertising and award shall be at the cost and expense of PLD.
- Upon the awarding of the contract, PLD shall contract with the successful bidder. PLD and APG shall assist with the negotiations and contract. PLD, through its agents or assigns, shall provide the construction resident inspection to ensure compliance with the permitted final design. EACGDD1, APG and PLD shall jointly determine substantial completion of the project.
- Upon completion of the project, PLD shall transfer ownership of the project including the responsibility for operation and maintenance to EACGDD1 and APG solely. PLD shall have no operation and maintenance responsibility regarding the LA 22 Gapping Project or any other phase once completed.