Flooding worries circle around Dawson Creek, federal funding could help
BATON ROUGE - A neighborhood along Acadian Thruway, near I-10 and Dawson Creek, is tired of flooding. The most recent storm on June 6, 2019, was the final straw.
At least 17 homes flooded along Honeysuckle Ave. and surrounding streets. Piles of debris sit at the curb, as it has in the past since this isn't the first time some of these homes have flooded.
"You know, if something isn't done we're doomed," said Ron Dubuis.
About a dozen residents met with 2 On Your Side Friday morning to discuss their concerns and how it's ruining their quality of life. The community, many of whom have lived there for decades, say the flooding issues have been happening for years.
It's become so frequent that Dubuis waterproofed his home years ago, installing tile and opting for materials that don't absorb liquid. A couple of weeks ago his home flooded with 18 inches of water. He moped up the water on his floors after it went down and soon after called WBRZ.
The residents tell 2 On Your Side they are confident the source of their problems is Dawson Creek.
"The whole canal is flooded and it's obstructed and when we get additional water it's got to go someplace and it backflows out of the canal," said Stanley Livingston.
Even the Department of Transportation of Development, which operates the pump at the railroad overpass and Acadian Thruway that constantly seems to fill with water, says the pumps work as they should. But with the receiving streams at capacity, there is no tributary to pump the water to.
The residents have documented the situation well, traveling up and down Dawson Creek looking at obstacles and overgrowth. The City-Parish says it can't comment on the situation as it stands because it hasn't had performed a proper investigation, but it says it does not have funding to clean out Dawson Creek. Which is the major concern for these residents.
"It's a nice neighborhood, it's easy to get to LSU, to get to other places, but those of us who live in the houses that flood, when we move, who's going to buy the house?" said Freda Yarbrough Dunne.
The state and City-Parish is aware of multiple options coming down the line and they all work in concert with one another.
Congressman Garret Graves' says there is $3 billion to be used to improve the evacuation of water in the Baton Rouge area.
That includes $300 million from FEMA, of which $112 million is going to East Baton Rouge Parish to be used for additional flood protection work, including clearing and snagging drainage canals. The City-Parish must first submit a "hazard mitigation plan" to FEMA. There's a plan to use $15 million of that for a stormwater protection plan study to learn more about the parish's drainage issues.
There's $1.2 billion from the office of Housing and Urban Development. There are no projects assigned to that funding yet, but EBR will be eligible for a portion of that. The state is waiting for the final set of rules on how to spend the money.
Graves helped secure $255 million in federal funding from the Army Corps of Engineers for the for East Baton Rouge Parish flood control. That project dates back decades but was never funded until about a year ago. That money would clear, widen, and deepen Blackwater Bayou, Jones Creek, Beaver Bayou, Blackwater Bayou, Bayou Fountain, and Ward's Creek.
While there's not money directly set to improve Dawson Creek at this time, it does feed into Ward's Creek, which when improved, will allow for better drainage down the line. The project is still in the works because neither the state or City-Parish has been able to put up a local funding match of $65 million, which would be paid back over 30 years after the project is completed.
Friday evening, Graves, the City-Parish, and the governor's office all confirmed they've been speaking with the other in the last few days and plan to arrange a meeting in the next week or so. All parties say they recognize the opportunity and want to put that funding to use.
Finally, the funding for the Comite Diversion Canal project has been secured and is being put to use right now. Recently, the Army Corps has said it expects to have the diversion canal completed by 2021. With the canal project completed, it will take a lot of stress off the larger rivers and allow for water in the smaller tributaries to drain quicker.