Avoyelles Police Jury wants strategic plan for drainage
It is time to stop talking about the weather and develop a plan for dealing with it, Avoyelles police jurors were told at their committee meetings session June 8.
“I talked with officials at the Rapides Area Planning Commission, which has just finished an extensive strategic plan for Rapides Parish that includes a master drainage plan,” Jury President Charles Jones said. “The bottom line is, the end of the stovepipe is Avoyelles Parish. All that water is coming our way.”
Jones said the jury can no longer afford to use the excuse that it lacks the money to do the work that is needed to significantly affect drainage issues in the parish. He told jurors that a plan with no money is actually better than having money with no plan.
Rapides Parish officials cannot be faulted for wanting to improve drainage and get water off their people faster, Jones said. Unfortunately for its southern neighbors, that means they will not only have their rainfall to deal with but will be hit with Rapides’ water sooner.
By the same token, Avoyelles cannot worry about the effect on St. Landry when it makes drainage system improvements to keep the water moving through the parish so it won’t flood homes, businesses and farmland in Avoyelles.
Jones said he wants the jury to host a “strategic planning workshop” in late June or early July to discuss the parish’s approach to drainage problems.
The meeting is vital to the success of any drainage improvement efforts, he noted. Jones said Rapides’ plan would be expensive to implement and a comprehensive plan for Avoyelles would also be costly.
However, he continued, Avoyelles needs to know what it needs to do and then address how to pay for that work.
“If we had all the money in the world to spend on improving the drainage,” Jones said, “without a plan, where would we start?
“If we have a plan in place, we would be in a better position to seek and obtain grants and other funding,” Jones said. “Right now if we say we need money to work on, say, Bayou Lacombe, they will ask ‘Why Bayou Lacombe?’ What do we answer?”
A plan will provide reasons to support the need for the various projects, including the number of people affected, frequency of flooding, etc.
Jones said he has invited representatives from the state Department of Transportation & Development, Red River-Atchafalaya-Bayou Boeuf Levee Board, RAPC and National Weather Service to participate in the strategic planning session.
While discussing drainage issues, Juror John Earles pointed out that the still-unopened juvenile detention center in Bunkie is damaging Bordelon Road when it pumps water from its retention ponds. The ponds were put in to hold additional water that would have been absorbed by the ground that is now under concrete due to the construction of the center.
When the retention ponds fill up, the state turns on a pump to release the water.
The center is located in Juror Pop Keller’s district. Keller was absent at the committee meeting. Earles also represents the Bunkie area and is very familiar with the property on which the juvenile detention center is built.
BUILT IN A BOWL
“That area is very low,” Earles said. “The detention center sits in a bowl and the water drains in there naturally.”
In addition, the water that used to fall onto farmland is now falling on roofs and concrete, increasing the amount of water to be drained.
Parish Engineer Ron Bordelon, whose company Pan American Engineers designed the detention center project, said a drainage ditch to a lateral canal was eliminated when the project went over-budget.
The Police Jury was asked to take care of that issue. The jury has cleared out the roadside drainage ditches at the site, but did not undertake creating a separate drainage ditch to carry water to a lateral drainage canal.
“When they turn those pumps on, there is a lot of water coming onto that road,” Earles said.
After the meeting, Earles said the main problem with the drainage at the detention center is that “they are trying to run the water east to Bayou Claire, but Bayou Claire is on a ridge.”
In short, the bayou is higher than the “bowl” surrounding the center.
“We also have a very small ditch on that road,” Earles said. “It cannot handle the amount of water being pumped out of the ponds.”
The result is water running over the road.
“The water wants to naturally go south to drain into Bayou Claire at U.S Hwy 71, along the railroad tracks,” Earles continued, “but there are no drainage ditches there.” Bayou Claire is lower than the detention center at that point.
He said the parish could seek assistance from Union Pacific Railroad, but he is not optimistic about the likelihood of a parish-UP partnership to resolve the problem.