Parish officials discuss possible solutions to drainage issues
By: TONY MARKS
Elected officials from Evangeline and Acadia parishes as well as representatives from FEMA and the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management met Wednesday afternoon with members of the Acadiana Planning Commission in the Evangeline Parish Police Jury Meeting Room to discuss drainage and flooding issues in the area.
Chairman of the Acadiana Planning Commission and President of St. Landry Parish Bill Fontenot said the meeting is a result of the “historic flood of 2016 which we were all impacted negatively by.”
He added that the meeting was “an opportunity to stay together as parishes to make sure we’re all at the table when we talk about the money and the planning for improvements to hopefully mitigate some of this drainage.”
The Acadiana Planning Commission is made up of the parish presidents of Evangeline, St. Landry, Acadia, Vermilion, Lafayette, St. Martin, Iberia, and St. Mary Parishes.
Monique Boulet serves as CEO for the commission and talked about what was discussed at previous meetings. “In August we had this big summit, and we came here prior to the summit and had a preliminary meeting,” she said. “We talked a lot about the efforts, and FEMA gave a presentation where they broke down the watersheds that were affected and compiled a bunch of data into each watershed. From a regional perspective we have the Teche, the Vermilion, and the Mermentau Watersheds.”
She also discussed fruits of that initial summit. “After that the New Orleans district invited the whole group to ride on the Mississippi River Commission tour to do the same panel again with the parish presidents,” Boulet said. “The New Orleans Office thought if we can show the big bosses what’s going on then maybe they would ease up on funding.”
“General Michael Wehr of the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers was on the boat that day, and he’s in charge of the entire Mississippi River area,” added Boulet. “He was emotional because they are not seeing any other jurisdictions across the country come together. He was thrilled, and the top brass and the New Orleans office were thrilled. My hope is when we get to the point of selecting projects, we can bring projects to them and say this came out of that process that they’ve reviewed all along the way.”
Emad Habib and Robert Smith from the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette discussed one of the proposed projects which is to implement more gauges along several waterways.
“Many other states have developed this gauge project for one reason or another,” said Habib, “and I think it’s time for us to do something similar or even better.”
He then discussed the benefits of these gauges. “One benefit is real time monitoring to see what’s happening at this point in time,” Habib explained. “If you have real time monitoring, you can start issuing alerts. The bigger effort here is to collect data and to add reliability to the system.”
Chester Granger, Public Works Director of Evangeline Parish, discussed with Basile Mayor Mark Denette and Ville Platte Mayor Jennifer Vidrine about where to put prospective gauges.
In the Basile area, Granger said that a gauge could be placed on Highway 10 west of the Y because “you have three major connections that are Boggy Bayou that comes from Miller’s Lake and the two reservoirs that are north and south of Highway 106.”
“For Ville Platte, it would need to be on Highway 167 where (Bayou Joe Marcel) crosses from Natchitoches Road going south by Tate’s Men and Boys and another one by the old Wal-Mart on the other side of town.”
Vidrine expressed her concerns on how to prevent flooding. “We can clean all the ditches and blow out all the culverts, but if we still have water that’s coming from (that bayou) then it still gets flooded.”
“We’re all going to be at the table to be sure each of us eight parishes hopefully gets some funding to do some work that will help with future drainage,” Fontenot said. “It’s something that’s been amiss whether we had that flood in 2016 or not. We’ve not been doing enough drainage work.”