$1,213,917,000 will find its way to Louisiana as part of a Disaster Recovery Program grant issued by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Ascension was invited to submit flood mitigation proposals by Congressman Garret Graves’ office and “it is imperative that the parish receive its fair share.” That’s the message Joel Robert stressed in a recent conversation which began with a question about his 2019 council candidacy.
“It’s been really frustrating to watch all the residential growth in our parish with no plan to build infrastructure to accommodate increased demand. It’s going to take some bold, outside the box thinking to fix an inadequate road network; but Ascension Parish should not be experiencing the flooding issues we’ve seen recently,” Robert said. “Common sense measures are not being taken, and unsatisfactory drainage is becoming worse and worse.”
Those less severe rain events are a regular cause for consternation “because general maintenance of our drainage channels and roadside ditches have been ignored…”
And then comes a named storm or three and the precariousness of Ascension’s situation is rendered acute. Devastating floods in 2016 (Robert noted that a lot of residents suffered damage in March, and then the Great Flood in August) brought home the danger for all to see.
“Over two years later and what’s been done?” he asked.
Ascension is waiting on a Floodplain Management Plan promised in October 2016; several projects on the drawing board for much longer have gone undone; and relentless subdivision development continues to fill up natural floodplain with dirt and concrete. It is part of Robert’s decision to run for the District 2 Council seat, that and the belief that “we can do better.”
“And the time is right now. Our parish has an opportunity that will never come again as Congress is about to appropriate over $1.2 billion dollars,” he stressed. “Just think of what can be accomplished with our fair share of those dollars, but we have to do better.”
Ascension received $33 million from an earlier $1.4 billion appropriation, the lion’s share going toward the Comite Diversion Project, upgrading East Baton Rouge Parish drainage channels, and the West Shore Hurricane Protection Project.
Combined with $59 million on hand, East Ascension Drainage Board should be able to complete projects on the drawing board for decades. These include Laurel Ridge Levee extension, Fish/Frog Bayou locks, dredging of Panama Canal/Bayou Conway, and others. Maybe a 2-year backlog of ditch cleaning work orders can be done.
And Robert is thinking on a grander scale.
“The potential exists to undertake bigger, more comprehensive projects if Ascension receives even 10% of the HUD grant,” he pointed out. “That’s why I urge every citizen to contact the parish council, our state legislative delegation, and anyone else who might be able to secure every available dollar.”