Laurel Ridge Levee/New River drainage improvements held up by pending litigation

District 6 Councilman Chase Melancon

“This has gone on long enough,” declared Councilman Chase Melancon upon emerging from Executive Session to discuss Livingston Parish’s lawsuit against Ascension to enjoin Laurel Ridge Levee extension project.

Monday’s East Ascension Drainage Commission meeting was another in the long and continuing saga.  On Ascension’s drainage improvement wish list for four decades, Laurel Ridge Levee extension would, according to the St. Amant council representative, afford varying levels of flood protection for approximately 9,000 Ascension Parish homes.  Livingston, relying upon a competing engineering study, has alleged potential harm to certain of its residents in the lawsuit filed in East Baton Rouge’s 19th Judicial District.

“We’re going to give our neighbors to the east one more shot to work with us based on engineering merit, to help our people,” Melancon explained his dual motion capping the years’ long negotiation at 30 days and authorizing President Clint Cointment to engage outside legal counsel to go on the attack.  “Let’s hope they are willing to be good neighbors.”

As the time-honored adage goes, good fences make good neighbors.  The boundary separating Ascension from Livingston is the Amite River (Diversion Canal), which hardly fits the bill.  It is a source of conflict between the litigating parishes.

Congressman Garret Graves, attempting to play peacemaker in 2018…

Did Graves just scrap Laurel Ridge Levee extension?

contributed nothing but delay of the levee extension, exactly what Livingston Parish hoped to achieve with its lawsuit.  Graves, overwhelmingly reelected in the 6th Congressional District (79% of Ascension’s voting public went for him, 88% of Livingston’s), has done little to assist Ascension’s efforts to solve its drainage problems.

No action whatever has been taken by either litigant in the suit between the parishes since July of 2018.  If that continues it would be abandoned in July 2021; easy enough to avoid by a virtually unlimited menu of procedural maneuvers.

In other business the commission was prevented from acting on Bridging the Gap Solutions’ bid to construct “New River Channel Improvements” in return for $3,944,300.  The low bid (by $700,000) was the subject of a Temporary Restraining Order signed by Judge Tess Stromberg enjoining any action by EA Drainage Commission on Monday.  Filed by Boone Services (the second place bidder), the suit seeks an injunction against consideration of the low bid.

The hearing for a preliminary injunction is scheduled for November 18.

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