Ascension Parish agreement with Corps to speed up drainage work

New River weir in Gonzales (Source: WAFB)
New River weir in Gonzales (Source: WAFB)

ASCENSION PARISH, LA (WAFB) - Projects aimed at improving drainage in Ascension Parish are about pick up steam. The parish is one of the first in the state to take advantage of a new program by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that puts them at the front of the line for permits.

Drainage can seem like a never-ending battle in parishes like Ascension, which are surrounded by canals, basins, and rivers. Storm debris and trash can create a nightmare when it rains. There are plans on the books to clean up the mess, but many of them must first be approved by the Army Corps of Engineers. Ascension Parish Chief Engineer Joey Tureau says that can cause big delays.

"Whenever that permit goes to the Corps, it gets put in a stack and when they first get it, it goes to the bottom of the stack," Tureau said.

But under a new agreement with the Corp of Engineers, Ascension Parish will pay $100,000 a year to get priority from a Corps employee, who will be assigned to work on Ascension Parish projects. As one of the first projects, Tureau says the parish plans to request permits for the removal of the weir and dredging in New River.

"The weir makes it restricted, so taking it out will make it like the other channels connected to the pumps. We can dictate the flow there better," Tureau said.

Ascension Parish spokesman, Martin McConnell, says having one individual with the Corps assigned to the parish also means the plans submitted for approval will remain fresh and familiar. For example, the parish recently bought 100 acres of land off Highway 22 in the Astroland subdivision. They built a ring levee there to protect homeowners from flooding. The Corps will soon review plans for a wetland area just on the other side. McConnell expects a much smoother process going forward.

"He will be aware of all the different projects, so when a new project comes before him, he will know what's in the hopper," McConnell said.

McConnell says cutting out the red tape means construction can begin and residents will see results much sooner. Another plan that will soon be submitted to the Corps for approval is a floodgate at Fish Bayou.

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