AG gives no clear answer on Bayou Lacombe question
For some time Mansura residents and town officials have been asking, “Who is responsible for maintaining Bayou Lacombe” within the municipal limits.
The answer is: three government boards CAN work on the major drainageway, but none of them HAVE to.
The Attorney General’s Office responded to the Town Council’s request for an opinion on the thorny question on July 30. Council members were hoping for good news at their Aug. 13 meeting, but came away disappointed and a bit frustrated.
Town Attorney Alissa Piazza-Tassin cautioned the council that the opinion was more of “a response, but not an answer.”
According to the opinion, the Red River, Atchafalaya and Bayou Boeuf Gravity Drainage District has jurisdiction over Bayou Lacombe and its related drainage infrastructure.
Had the opinion-writer stopped at that point, there would have been smiles all around.
However, it continued to state that the Avoyelles Police Jury and the Mansura Town Council may “create jurisdiction over the Bayou Lacombe drainage lateral and related drainage infrastructure.
“While these government entities may choose to exercise jurisdiction over the Bayou Lacombe drainage lateral in the Town of Mansura, the question of whether any of these government entities has chosen to undertake that responsibility is a question of fact and is, therefore, outside the scope of the opinion.”
In short, state law gives all three entities the authority to maintain Bayou Lacombe inside the Mansura municipal limits, but there is no law that requires any of the entities to maintain the bayou.
Mansura Mayor Kenneth Pickett noted that the bayou‘s condition is as bad now as it was before a federally-funded project cleared it a year or so ago.
Town Engineer Ron Bordelon said he and town officials have talked to the RRABB Levee Board in the past about doing work on Bayou Lacombe.
At that time, the Levee Board expressed a willingness to assist the town and/or Police Jury in any drainage improvement project, but was not willing to take on the whole responsibility of maintaining the bayou.
He said the Levee Board almost always asks “what will you be doing” when a local government asks them to do work.
Bordelon recommended the town and Police Jury send representatives to the Levee Board to discuss the needs along Bayou Lacombe.
The issue was also discussed at the Police Jury committee meetings on Aug. 9.
Police Jury President Charles Jones said that without a maintenance program to keep the banks clear and the drainageway clean, “it will be back to where it was” before the federally-funded improvement project was done.
Bordelon, who also serves as the parish’s engineer, told jurors there is no parish revenue for work on Bayou Lacombe.
He held out the possibility of securing state funding through the Statewide Flood Program.
He also mentioned that possibility to the Mansura council members and recommended the town and parish submit a joint application for state funds.