Ascension Parish officials estimate they will cut into Alligator Bayou Road Wednesday or Thursday to relieve high water in the Bluff Swamp and Spanish Lake Basin.
Bill Roux, Ascension Parish public works director, said at a special Parish Council meeting Sunday the water level in Bayou Manchac needs to drop by 2 feet before the 70-foot break on top of the road can be cut. The cut will allow water from the basin to flow into Bayou Manchac.
“It’s hardly dropped, just a few inches,” Roux said of the water level in Bayou Manchac.
The water level hasn’t dropped much because of all the water flowing in from Baton Rouge and Bayou Fountain.
To help speed up the drainage, the parish council Sunday agreed to install three temporary pumps on Alligator Bayou Road, which will pump water from the basin into Bayou Manchac. Roux said the first pump was installed Sunday morning, the second would be ready Sunday night and the third one should be running by Monday morning.
But even with the pumps, Roux said it would take two months to bring down the water levels in the swamp basin. Another heavy rain event or a hurricane would threaten thousands of more homes and businesses in Ascension and Iberville parishes, on top of all of the houses that flooded as a result of the heavy rains last week.
“If we don’t do this, we will be in serious trouble,” said Councilwoman Teri Casso.
Roux estimated that lowering the water level in the basin by 4 feet will require draining 13 billion to 15 billion gallons of water. “This is not a backyard pool we’re trying to drain.”
Alligator Bayou Road normally acts like a levee and holds water in the basin and in nearby Bayou Manchac separate from each other in the northwest corner of eastern Ascension and eastern Iberville parishes.
Severe rains fell into the basin, which helped push water from Manchac — fed by high water from East Baton Rouge Parish — over Alligator Bayou Road into the basin.
Roux told the parish council that flood waters were receding across the parish and was below flood stages everywhere but in Sorrento and St. Amant.
“Hopefully, we can put everything in the normal range in St. Amant by tomorrow,” he said. “Sorrento is a little bit behind, because I don’t think they’re quite under flood stage at French Settlement.”
In other business, the parish council approved a pair of pay measures for employees affected by the flooding. The first measure gave regular salary payments for all parish employees for the week of Aug. 15.
The second allows employees significantly impacted by the flooding to cash out some or all of their accrued vacation time. At least 81 employees were hit hard by the storm, said Council Chairman Randy Clouatre, and some lacked flood insurance.
Clouatre said it doesn’t do employees any good to have thousands of dollars worth of banked vacation time if they are facing making significant repairs to their homes.
“Our employees who gave 24/7, some of them have had their homes impacted,” he said. “They’ve got a long road in front of them.”