WALKER, LA (WAFB) - The cities of Walker and Denham Springs have officially filed suit against the state of Louisiana and all contractors involve in the I-12 widening project, saying the concrete barrier wall along I-12 contributed to the devastating flooding in Livingston Parish communities in August.
Several area mayors made the announcement at a press conference at the Walker Municipal building at 5:00 p.m. Thursday. On his final day in office, Mayor Rick Ramsey said he was hoping to make good on a promise to the people of Walker.
"Even though this is my last official day as mayor I won't quit until we see some action on this," Ramsey said.
He and other Livingston Parish elected officials filed a class action lawsuit Thursday against the state and the Department of Transportation and Development for widespread flooding in August they say was caused by a concrete barrier wall along I-12.
"Rain scares people now. It scares people because a dam's been built along the interstate that they're afraid will flood them again." said Ramsey.
While no dollar amount has been assigned to the lawsuit, lead attorney Josh Palmintier said the main goal is to get DOTD to remove or fix the concrete wall that stretches some 19 miles between EBR and Livingston parishes.
"We are asking that the state fix the problems created by the private contractors who designed and built the barrier wall," said Palmintier.
The wall was initially built as part of a widening project on I-12 called "Geaux Wider" and was meant to prevent head on crashes, but Denham Springs Mayor Gerard Landry, who is also part of the lawsuit, claims it had unintended consequences, including flooding countless homes north of the interstate.
"I personally spoke to John Bel Edwards myself and also federal highways in Washington when we made our trip up there before Congress. We brought pictures and spoke to those gentlemen as well and to no avail. Nobody wants to accept the fact that the wall caused the flooding," Landry added.
Livingston Parish President Layton Ricks said he wants to be clear, the lawsuit is not an attack on Governor John Bel Edwards or DOTD Secretary Dr. Shawn Wilson but he believes something must be done.
"This is saying to them look guys we need y'all to step in now and put some loopholes, some drainage.. whatever you can do to help us alleviate the deep waters when another event like this happens," Ricks said.
Palminiter said the lawsuit is still in items early stages and there is still time for other residents and businesses to join the suit.