Amite River board approves new executive director, hears updates on projects



(The Center Square) — Louisiana’s Amite River Basin Commission Board approved amendments to its budget and discussed progress on several projects at a meeting on Tuesday.

Board members approved budget amendments for $47,000 in salary and $7,000 in retirement benefits for a new executive director hired last month.

Engineer and certified floodplain manager Rachel Lambert, who directed East Baton Rouge Parish’s Department of Development, started as the commission’s executive director on Oct. 1 but missed her first commission meeting Tuesday due to strep throat.

In addition to salary and benefits, the commission approved $3,300 in spending on a computer system upgrade for Lambert and $4,000 for a new auditor.

Commissioners also discussed an access road for an ongoing Comite River Diversion Canal Project and whether they’d prefer a contractor to return the road to its natural state or to leave it for future maintenance.

Commissioner Fred Raiford, who represents East Baton Rouge Parish, urged the leave the road, blocked by a gate, “because it would be ideal for us for maintenance in the future” when the parish takes over that responsibility.

The commission ultimately approved a motion to request the current road to remain with a gate and drainage improvements.

Other discussions centered on a multi-parish project to improve the flow of Ward Creek in the Bayou Manchac watershed in Ascension Parish. The project would have redirected the mouth of Ward Creek to protect areas upstream from backwater flooding that impacts Ascension and Iberville parishes. Still, it needed to meet the thresholds of cost-benefit analysis to proceed as part of a broader initiative involving bridge improvements and others.

“It would not meet the cost-benefit ratio, and with hazard mitigation funds … you have to make sure you meet it or you’re out,” Raiford said. “As a region, I assume we can maybe look at some other avenues to try to address that.”

Bren Haase and consultants with the Louisiana-based CSRS updated the commission on progress toward complying with a legislative requirement to put an annual plan in place by Jan. 1.

“Having that plan in place will be helpful in the future so that we’ve got a menu of projects,” Haase said.

Stokka Brown, principal at CSRS, told the commission to expect an outline of the plan by Oct. 16, a draft by Nov. 15, and a final document by Dec. 15.

“It’s going to be the mechanism by which the ARBC outlines its projected revenues for the upcoming year, as well as looking two years in the future,” he said.

The document will also include background on the commission, an inventory of current and historic projects and completion schedules, past accomplishments, and supplemental materials for public engagement.

Tuesday’s commission meeting also featured approval of new draft procurement rules for proposals and requests for qualifications expected to standardize those processes to align with federal, state, and local funding requirements.

“This is a pretty comprehensive procurement package and I think it would go a long way to being able to control awarding professional services for anything we might need as a commission,” at-large member Gary O’Neal said.



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