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Monica Fabre standing on Pecan Drive, West, in New Roads explains that this street and one other, Pecan Drive, East, flood every time there’s a hard rain. Fabre said water from Portage Canal backs up, flooding this and other streets.

Advocate Staff Photo by PATRICK DENNIS

NEW ROADS — The Pointe Coupee Parish Police Jury has entered into a partnership with a federal agency that could lead to buyout offers for residents living in a flood-prone community. 

But residents are already voicing reservations.

"We have no confidence they'll do right by us," Sylvia Williams said Wednesday, a day after the Police Jury unanimously approved a "memorandum of understanding" between the parish and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service. 

Williams and others are turning their noses up at the proposal because it offers no relocation and/or rebuilding plans for the homes residents of the oft-flooded Pecan Acres subdivision will lose if they accept buyout offers. And without 100 percent participation from the 40 households involved, the plan is dead in the water. 

The program the Police Jury wants to pursue involves buying out homes in Pecan Acres and restoring the area to floodplain after the homes and infrastructure have been demolished and removed. 

Pecan Acres has been dubbed "Flood City" by residents who say the community has been swamped by storm waters at least 17 times over the past couple of decades. The community is inhabited primarily by low-income black and elderly residents and was built in an area that used to be a parish dumpsite.

Most households can't afford flood insurance so they were often turned down for flood recovery funds from the federal government — a requirement for families living in flood-prone communities.  

Although the neighborhood has flooded often, the most recent historic floods, which swamped much of the Baton Rouge region, galvanized residents like never before. The community is putting more pressure on the parish's elected officials to solve their flood fatigue. 

However, they say they don't believe that the program the Police Jury is pursuing is the way to do it. 

"They want to buyout 40 homes. OK. Then what?" Williams said. "It seems like a great program but they can't do relocation and rebuilding." 

Several jurors have voiced concerns, but still supported entering into the partnership with NRCS because they said they see it as a jumping off point in what will likely be a complicated process.

Kevin Norton, state conservationist with NRCS, told the jury this week that its approval of the agreement simply starts a process which involves reappraisals of the 40 homes included in the buyout proposal and the distribution of applications to residents.

"If y'all don't get 100 percent applications from everyone, we're done," Norton said during the meeting. 

The Police Jury's attorney, John Wayne Jewell, addws: "We can't force them to do anything."

Jurors and parish leaders assured residents who attended a Police Jury meeting Tuesday night that filling out the applications didn't mean they were agreeing to take a buyout.

Parish officials also said they are looking into other community and federal programs that could focus on the relocation and/or rebuilding part of the effort. 

Juror Cornell Dukes, who spearheaded many of the initial conversations leading to the NRCS partnership, said Wednesday that the focus is now on the Governor's Office to find the additional money that can be used to relocate Pecan Acres residents. 

"I would ask residents to give their leaders a chance to come up the remaining solutions," Dukes said.

Parish officials said NRCS will host a public meeting soon with residents to go over more specific details about the program. No date has been set yet. 

Follow Terry Jones on Twitter, @tjonesreporter.