BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - It’s arguably one of the most beautiful spots in the city, but officials say they’ve noticed some troubling signs of erosion along The Bluffs at Southern University.
The spot is more than just a nice place to grab a seat and chat. Clemetta Sterling says it’s in her DNA and built in to the generations of her family who graduated from the school.
“My grandmother and my mother graduated," said Sterling. "You know, we all came here.”
She was shocked to learn parts of the Baton Rouge landmark are now slipping away.
“It is concerning to me because to have it that high, you can tell they really need to do something about that now,” said Sterling.
The mighty Mississippi has been creeping higher for months, and now, parts of the natural levee are paying the price.
Pictures from the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office show erosion where the river has claimed sections of the barrier just off Southern’s campus. Also, one spot that’s normally visible at the bottom of the levee now sits underwater. Kyle Huffstickler, manager of maintenance for the city, believes right now, there’s not a huge concern, but he says they’re monitoring the area daily.
“That’s just because the water’s up at 44 feet, so it’s caused some of the bluff to slough off a little bit," said Huffstickler. “This was something that the sheriff’s office noticed and brought it to our attention and we just felt like we needed to keep an eye on it.”
Officials at Southern have roped off the area to make sure students and visitors do not get too close to the edge. Huffstickler believes there will not be a good idea of how much damage is done until the water goes down. It’s something he predicts likely will hot happen until the end of July.
“You can’t really control Mother Nature," he added. "We’ll have to see what it brings when it gets here.”
With each passing day, Sterling grows just a little bit more concerned and hopes something can be done to protect the spot and preserve this piece of Baton Rouge history for years to come.
“This is a foundation for our students to come here and see this, so we really do need this,” said Sterling.
Janene Tate, spokeswoman for Southern University, released the following statement on the situation to WAFB:
“While we are affected by environmental factors that have caused erosion, not unlike any other coastal areas in the state and country, we are at an advantage by being located at the highest point in the city. We are working closely with GOHSEP to monitor levels and assess threats. Safety is always paramount, and precautions and awareness will be conveyed diligently to the campus and surrounding community.”
The Bluffs do not actually fall under the city of the levee district’s control, so if something is going to be done, the two big questions that would need to be answered are who would take on the project and how much it would cost.