One element of the recently proposed bond issue for East Baton Rouge Parish that has not received much public discussion was a plan for drainage “improvements” projected to cost $194.7 million. Strangely, the proposed plan included more than six miles of concrete lining in parish waterways. This antiquated approach to drainage has been abandoned in many parts of the United States because of its economic and environmental costs. The city-parish government had indicated in recent years that concrete canal linings had been abandoned in Baton Rouge as well, but apparently that is not the case. There are many reasons why it should be.
In addition to aesthetic shortcomings, concrete linings in waterways create as many problems as they solve. They funnel water quickly out of one area, but obviously dump it just as quickly onto another. That creates problems for areas downstream, such as Ascension Parish and the Amite River Basin, which receive Baton Rouge’s drainage flow from ditches and tributary streams. Those problems involve both volume and quality, i.e., pollution, and negatively impact areas such as the Amite River and Bayou Manchac that already are listed as biologically impaired. They pass a flooding problem onto the residents who live downstream while imposing higher construction and maintenance costs on taxpayers upstream.
The growing problem of drainage in Baton Rouge is a direct result of the ongoing loss of natural drainage and flood control systems to nonpervious surfaces, such as asphalt and concrete. Reversing this trend will save taxpayers money and preserve natural areas (woods, wetlands, fields) that also improve our quality of life. The proposal to continue to install concrete linings in Baton Rouge waterways is also at odds with the science-based approach to watershed management laid out in the FutureBR Comprehensive Master Plan that has been put before the parish.