The North Lafourche Levee District is in an unenviable position. It is charged with preventing its constituents’ homes, businesses and public facilities from flooding, but has limited financial ability to do it and limited public backing of its method.
A recent try at getting a one-cent sales tax proposal passed for levees and drainage failed by 508 votes.
Places like west Larose, Bayou Blue, and Kraemer are at the front of a long list of projects without funding.
One excellent example of NLLD’s problem in protecting low-lying areas in the Kramer/Bayou Boeuf community, where Hurricane Isaac recently sent everyone into panic mode when flood waters overtopped the levee systems in that area.
The community, the levee district, and the parish responded to prevent any flooding, except for the Bayou Boeuf Elementary School where water did enter the building.
Two electric pumps, installed several years ago to protect the school and the area, were inoperable during the storm due to loss of electrical service.
Ray Cheramie of Larose, Department of Public Works Director for the parish at the time of the installation of the pumps, says they were originally designed to run on natural gas or electric power. No one at Wednesday’s meeting could answer why the pumps only operate on electric power now.
To “fix” just this little Kraemer/Bayou Boeuf problem would cost millions. The area around the school has been identified as a nearly $700,000 project which would include recapping and reshaping nearby levees, heightening Hwy. 307, and improving the pumps there.
Another project in the same area, to improve drainage to the north and west of the Bayou Boeuf Bridge, would cost over $1.5 million. And that’s in yesterday’s “dollars”.
NLLD has requested $1.1 million from State Capital Outlay, but there is no guarantee that the state will give them a dime. Past requests have consistently been denied, year after year.
State Representative Jerome Richard and State Senator Gary Smith were in attendance on Wednesday and voiced their concerns.
Referring to the recent parish donation of $1 million to Chabert Medical Center, Richard said, “I know Norby (State Representative Norby Chabert) will be upset with me, but we might have better spent the $1 million here (in Kraemer/Bayou Boeuf).”
Smith, who sits on the Capital Outlay Committee, said that in his 13 years on the committee, the money is “the tightest it has ever been.” He said the windfall dollars of the past don’t exist anymore.
The one-cent sales tax proposal and the money it would have generated could have helped the cause of Kraemer, and other communities like Larose, Bayou Blue, and Lockport, to fight the battle over sinking land and rising water.
And while NLLD has approximately $7 million available for capital improvements, much of that money has already been assigned to other projects.
Without other funding, like a dedicated sales tax or money from other sources, NLLD has its hands tied.
The board has discussed trying to educate voters as to the need for additional funding to protect against the eminent flooding which they predict will continue to occur, but board members don’t seem to be dedicated to the idea.
A proposal way back in July, to organize “town hall” meetings in all parts of NLLD’s domain to educate voters, was discussed but never got rolling.
Wednesday night, Commissioner Lonnie Babin called for “putting the show on the road”, to have the public meetings in different places in the parish. He argued that moving future public meetings to places like Mathews, 6th Ward, or Lockport, will take care of the education initiative.
The board agreed.
The January 2013 tentative meeting site is the Lafourche Parish Mathews Government Complex on January 23rd.
Posted on Fri, December 21, 2012