Residents fear EBR stormwater plan could be swamped by relentless development

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The answer to concerns over flash-flooding in East Baton Rouge may soon be on the horizon now that the city-parish has moved forward with the firm HNTB to come up with a new stormwater master plan.

"We're going to try to address the flooding conditions or the flood risks that people have in East Baton Rouge," said Fred Raiford, director of transportation and drainage for EBR.

It is an ambitious idea that Raiford says will begin to take shape in the next several weeks. He says the first step is mapping out the risks and then determining what fixes should happen where.

"I want to make it right. I want to make it better for the community but I also want to be sure that it's based on technical evaluation," said Raiford.

Prompted by last year's historic flood, Raiford wants to be clear that the plan will not be to address a thousand-year flood but rather the goal is to make water flow better during more frequent rain events.

"There may be some infrastructure problems that we have that we can make repairs to that will alleviate some problems that people experience every day," Raiford added.

Keith Schultz though says the plan is too little too late.

"Potentially you're building more problems," he said.

Schultz is the president of the Shenandoah Hills Homeowner's Association and takes issue with development projects sprouting up all over town, including a proposed 425 lot neighborhood called the Lakes at Jones Creek that has all but gotten the green light from the city-parish.

"Personally, I feel there should be somewhat of a stop on development at this point," said Schultz.

Schultz argues approving new developments could make the future stormwater plan worthless.

"That is a bit concerning," Schultz added. "If it comes out after the fact and you've already green-lighted this many homes or any other development, there's nothing you can do after the fact."

Raiford says he understands the concern from residents but believes the developer for the Lakes at Jones Creek has followed all current zoning rules

"He's trying to follow those same rules that everybody else has but they may change in the future," said Raiford.

Right now though he says having a plan is key to ensure any future decisions are fair.

"What's important about this plan is it takes all the politics out. It's all about factual, technical decisions," he added.

Raiford says the stormwater plan will roll out in phases but maintains no decisions will be made without first getting input from the public.

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