New head of Ascension drainage board wants to hit the ground running, ‘vet’ all projects approved by parish president

Published: Jun. 29, 2021 at 6:30 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - When Bill Roux takes over as the new leader of the drainage board in Ascension he said certain projects will have to be reevaluated while others are allowed to go on as planned.

“We have to vet some of this stuff through engineering but once we get it, and some of it might fit into the plan,” Roux said.

The incoming drainage director said his priorities focus on finding an effective way to drain water out of Bluff Swamp, extending the Laurel Ridge Levee, putting major flood relief gates next to pumping stations, and improving the reservoir in Sorrento.

The Bluff Swamp area has been inundated with water since the May floods. Parish President Clint Cointment announced plans to install a larger culvert and a flood gate under LA-74 to allow the water to drain into Morgan Swamp and eventually into the New River. Roux said that project would likely be halted in order to find a better solution, saying by his estimates it would not work.

Roux also said he wants to overhaul the parish’s ditches, replacing them with floodways that allow more water to flow out of residential areas.

“No more ditches but wide floodways that stay dry most of the time, but they have the capacity there to hold at least up to a 500-year event and then slowly release it,” he said.

Roux is only a placeholder for the position. He and several council members are hoping to overhaul the drainage board, installing a non-political “CEO” to run the board. Councilman Corey Orgeron said he hopes to have the board run more like a business.

“I don’t think politics should get involved,” Orgeron said. “I think there needs to be scientific data, scientific reasons behind everything that we do and then copy that with the financial aspects of it, cost-benefit analysis and then let’s move forward.”

Orgeron said the council will embark on a “nationwide” search for a new CEO.

“My preference would be getting him through the end of the year, bringing somebody new in, having him stay on as a consultant, helping him learn the ropes and then segue, Bill leaves, new person is in place, and we have an expert running our drainage,” he said.

Roux will transition into the new position over the next 60 days.

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