Amite River flood mitigation agency aims for project grants



(The Center Square) — The Amite River Basin Conservation District this week took up various issues, from potential new flood mitigation projects to updates on existing projects to the hire of a new executive director.

District President John Clark said Tuesday that officials have completed work rating upcoming projects in the watershed, an especially flood-prone region that stretches across 3,450 square miles and eight parishes and is now working on securing funding for the region, both for projects and a regional coordinator.

“We’ve worked closely with state reps and the governor for an amendment to the Watershed Initiative Action Plan that would provide Region Nine, one of the most impaired regions in the state, to receive $100 million for large transformative flood risk reduction projects,” he said.

“We’re also … working with our state delegation to secure additional ARBC operating funds and we’ll be submitting a letter of intent for hazard mitigation grant program funding for a much-needed project.”

District board members held a special meeting in August to select a new executive director from more than 40 applicants, settling on Rachael Lambert, who directs East Baton Rouge Parish’s Department of Development.

Lambert, an engineer and certified floodplain manager, is expected to start on Oct. 1.

Kristi Trail, executive director of the Pontchartrain Conservancy, also presented an overview of a proposal to decommission a wastewater treatment facility and retention pond in Greensburg in St. Helena Parish.

Trail explained that flooding has caused issues with untreated wastewater overflowing existing berms to the Tickfaw River and areas around the town, including near a local nursing home.

“This project would aim to improve water quality by eliminating this entire system and building a new system that would be mechanically run, elevated, and have an administration building,” she said, adding that the project is in Region Seven but impacts Region Nine overseen by the district.

Other projects discussed include improving the Bayou Manchac watershed in Ascension Parish.

The project, from East Baton Rouge Parish in coordination with Ascension and Iberville parishes, would redirect the mouth of Ward Creek to protect areas upstream from backwater flooding that impacts Ascension and Iberville parishes.

“This has been a problem for a long time,” Clark said, adding that the $3.5 million cost would be covered entirely by federal hazard mitigation funds. “This is something that could make a big difference.”

“By realigning this channel, we’ll certainly help facilitate the flow,” said Fred Railford, a board member from East Baton Rouge Parish. “Any time you can straighten that alignment, make the water go with the flow of Manchac, things are going to work ten times better.”

The board ultimately adopted a resolution to sign on to a letter of intent that will serve as a placeholder in the region for the project.

Other items discussed included ongoing work with the Comite River Diversion Canal Project, which remains on schedule for completion in 2025 despite delays from utility relocations and cost increases in excess of 30%.



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