Pros and cons were expressed at last week’s meeting even though no specific remedy is on the table.
And the former chairman of the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission has been buying full-page newspaper ads to cast doubts on the “flood-proofing” project.
At issue are waterfront residences in lower St. Martin Parish within the Bayou Estates and Oak Harbor Estates off La. 70 north of Morgan City. Whenever there’s the threat of high water, whether from the Gulf or the Mississippi River, Parish Government mobilizes to make sandbags available to the residents, who must scramble day and night to deploy them on their properties.
According to Parish President Guy Cormier, there is nearly $2 million in funding available to craft something more proactive and permanent.
While the engineers have not yet delivered a blueprint of what that would be, the general consensus is that it would involve a sheetpile dike and a floodgate to replace the sandbags, and pumps to discharge local rainfall and seepage.
“For the first time in 32 years, we have $2 million dedicated to fix this problem,” Cormier told a group of lower St. Martin residents, many of whom came to the parish seat in a chartered bus.
“We are going to bring you a plan and I would hope you would vote to so something rather than nothing.”
“We are going to present you with something that we know will help,” said Parish Councilman Carroll Delahoussaye, whose district includes lower St. Martin.
Delahoussaye praised his fellow council members for their forbearance during times when resources must be diverted from their districts to fight flooding in lower St. Martin.
“Every time we ask this body for something about Stephensville, the members go along with it, even though it means sacrifice in their districts.”
With the help of the St. Martin Sheriff’s Office, Parish Government makes loads of sand and stacks of bags available to lower St. Martin property owners and residents, who must do their own sandbagging.
“It’s against the law for government to haul sand on private property,” Cormier said. “We cannot do it.”
Stephensville resident Elwood Scully, backed a busload of neighbors and a petition he said was signed by 167 out of 225 residents, was on the June 5 agenda to voice support of the project.
Scully said the declining elevation of the land worsened the prospect of flooding each year.
“We have a problem, and we pray for your immediate action in this regard,” he said.
On a motion by Meko Robin, a representative of the opposing view was added to the agenda. Jack Vilas III said he is concerned about the day-to-day effect of having a flood gate restricting tidal flow into the subdivision, even when open.
“The tidal flow keeps water in the subdivision relatively fresh,” he said. “How do we know we’re not going to create a stagnant area?”
Vilas said he had a petition signed by 87 residents opposing a flood gate.
“That’s a large amount of people who don’t want that to happen,” he said.
Earl King Jr. of Amelia, a former chairman of the state Wildlife and Fisheries Commission, bought full-page ads in newspapers that cover the area, including the Teche News, that call into question the influence of public input for the flood-proofing project.
At last week’s meeting Parish President Cormier pointed out that a public hearing was held in Stephensville on the concept of fixing the longstanding flooding problem, and that another would be scheduled when engineers have drafted plants to accomplish the goals.