Lafayette Residents Question Flood Prevention Plan
The Lafayette Parish Council is giving the green light to retention ponds that Lafayette Consolidated Government says could alleviate flooding on the Vermilion River.
Those proposed retention ponds would be located on Lebesque Road near Scott, on Robley Drive just north of the Vermilion Parish line, and on Homewood Drive in Milton.
Last night, the parish council declared the Lebesque Road and Robley Drive retention ponds “public necessities.” The council introduced an ordinance to declare the Homewood Drive pond a necessity.
While L-C-G says the ponds will prevent major floods, others are skeptical.
“Does it help me or the 500 people downstream of me?" Lafayette attorney Tommy Guilbeau asked. "No! Does it help the people who came here and complained about it? No! It’s about making money for certain developers, and that’s that.”
Guilbeau remembers vividly August 12, 2016.
“At 6:00 in the morning, my wife said, ‘Wake up! We have water in the house.’ I got out of bed, there were six inches of water. Within three hours, it was up to our waste. Right after that, it got up to our shoulders. Our dogs floated around on the couch.”
Guilbeau's home took on four-and-a-half feet of water. Since then, he has been fighting to reduce water levels on the Vermilion River. Guilbeau says dredging the Vermilion River would be much more effective—and cheaper—than these retention ponds.
“We have these experts. They say if you do spot dredging and take away the spoil banks and work on the watershed, you can control the water on the Vermilion," Guilbeau said.
“And we’re sitting here once again as taxpayers going down the tube because they won’t get off their behinds and do what’s right—and that’s spot dredge the Vermilion for $7 million, not $150 million, and do these spoil banks, which is nothing."
Harold Schoeffler agrees. The local Sierra Club chairman these ponds would lower Vermilion River water levels by only one inch. He says other projects would have a greater impact on lowering Vermilion River water levels.
“One, we take down the spoil banks," Schoeffler said. "That will lower Lafayette's water (level), by our computation, one-and-a-half feet. We can drain Cypress Island into Lake Fausse Point with a one-mile piece of canal. We're working with St. Martin Parish on that. That would lower the levels five to six feet. This was a project the (Army) Corps (of Engineers) put together and modeled in 1994 after the 1993 flood.”
Guilbeau also recalled the aftermath of the 1993 flood. He says LCG should study its history to find the solution to its current problems.
“We got John Breaux to help us do spot dredging of the Vermilion River," Guilbeau said.
“We dug all that out, and we didn’t flood again until 2016. When we did, it was a hell of a flood because we have all these hills that need to be spot dredged. It worked before. It’ll work again.”
During the parish council meeting, Mayor-President Josh Guillory said LCG is working with St. Martin Parish to remove the spoil banks in the Atchafalaya Basin to improve water flow and lower water levels in the Teche-Vermilion District.
Guillory also says these retention ponds are in the preliminary stages.
“This is one of many possible projects, and this particular step is one step of many that could be or will be required," Guillory said. "The gentleman mentioned the Corps of Engineers. They’re not going to issue a permit if the science is not there. Our own public works department won’t let us go forward if the science is not there. I won’t let it go forward if I’m not convinced.”
In other council business: The Lafayette City Council introduced an ordinance to accept a $3.1 million grant to expand LUS Fiber to businesses along the U. S. 90 corridor into St. Martin and Iberia Parishes. District 1 councilman Patrick Lewis asked LUS Fiber director Teles Fremin why the grant didn't include expansion northward towards Lafayette's northside and Carencro to service FedEx, Amazon, and other new businesses along the I-49 corridor. Fremin said those areas did not qualify for the grant. Fremin also said LUS Fiber and LCG are looking for other grants to expand Fiber northward along I-49.
The city council also gave final approve to a plan for LUS to offer electrical services to new residential developments inside Scott city limits. The Scott City Council must still approve the agreement. It's scheduled to be on their April agenda.
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