EBR and Ascension going halfsies on clearing Bayou Manchac following floods

East Baton Rouge and Ascension parishes have reached an agreement to share the expenses of clearing and snagging Bayou Manchac, a key drainage basin for both parishes.

Ward Creek and Bayou Fountain in East Baton Rouge Parish as well as Bluff Swamp and Spanish Lake in Ascension all drain into Bayou Manchac.

Clearing and snagging the bayou will help stormwater drain more effectively.

The project’s cost is unknown but is estimated to be at least $400,000. Director of Transportation and Drainage Fred Raiford estimates Baton Rouge’s share of the cost will be about $200,000—money he says will come from some of the parish’s American Rescue Plan dollars.

Mayor Sharon Weston Broome has already pledged to direct some $40 million in federal pandemic relief funds to local drainage projects.

In Ascension Parish, the East Ascension Drainage Board has approved $200,000 so far for the project, which will come from the East Ascension Drainage Fund.

Though it might seem like a no-brainer for two parishes that share a watershed to partner on regional drainage projects, the collaborative approach is relatively new for the Capital Region.

Raiford says several factors came together to make this project happen:

• The May 17 flood earlier this year underscored the urgent need for regional cooperation.

• Federal funds that could be put toward the project became available, courtesy of the ARP.

• The state agreed to remove for five years Bayou Manchac’s “scenic byways” designation, making it easier to cut down trees and clear stumps.

Iberville Parish, which also shares the watershed, is not yet a party to the agreement. But Raiford says he expects Iberville will ultimately join Ascension and East Baton Rouge parishes in the cost-sharing arrangement.

Clearing and snagging Bayou Manchac is just part of the solution to addressing Baton Rouge’s growing drainage and flooding problems.

On Monday, the Planning Commission took up nine projects that are located wholly or in part in areas at high risk for flooding. Most of the developments received approval, though one was denied and another was deferred 30 days, according to news reports. Critics of the parish development pattern have argued that new development in areas that once served as a natural drainage basin has made the local flooding problem worse.

“As parts of Baton Rouge experienced flooding (last week) from Tropical Storm Nicholas, it is alarming that the Planning Commission is considering approving new developments in the FEMA-designated Special Flood Hazard Zones in many of those same areas,” says Baton Rouge Sierra Club Executive Commission member Angelle Bradford.

The Bayou Manchac proposal will be introduced at Wednesday’s Metro Council meeting and will be voted on by the council in October.

This story originally appeared in a Sept. 20 edition of Daily Report. To keep up with Baton Rouge business and politics, subscribe to the free Daily Report e-newsletter here.