ASCENSION PARISH, LA (WAFB) - Five parish presidents met Monday and agreed to a unified, regional approach as the best way to obtain funding and move forward on construction for various flood-related projects.
The meeting, called by Ascension Parish President Kenny Matassa, was attended by representatives from the Army Corps of Engineers, the Amite River Basin Commission, the Pontchartrain Levee District, and the offices of Congressman Garret Graves and Senator Bill Cassidy. Also in attendance were State Senator Eddie Lambert, and State Representatives Johnny Berthelot, Tony Bacala, and Clay Schexnayder.
Matassa opened the meeting with a call to action, saying, "Our people have suffered from floods and surges as decades fly past and projects stall for lack of funding. This must change."
Livingston Parish President Layton Ricks expressed his frustration with systems designed to mitigate flooding. "All of the processes in place are flawed. Sitting at the table with leaders from neighboring parishes will really make a difference. I'm hoping speaking as a group with one voice works," he said.
"I understand the frustration and share the concerns of this group. My home was flooded, and I'm not back in it yet. This is a great start and the best way to accomplish our common objectives," said East Baton Rouge Mayor-president Sharon Weston Broome.
After discussion, the group consensus was that three projects should be prioritized, including the Comite River Diversion Canal, the West Shore Levee Protection system, and clearing and dredging of Bayou Manchac.
"Regionally we are united. These three projects must be funded now. I will be traveling to Washington with several parish presidents to deliver this message to Congress, federal agencies, and President Trump in February," said Matassa.