An East Baton Rouge Parish landowner wants Ascension and Iberville parishes to compensate him for losses he says he incurred as a result of emergency steps taken in August 2016 to alleviate flooding in the Spanish Lake area.  

The parishes dug trenches through portions of Alligator Bayou/Manchac Road, and Ascension also installed portable pumps to allow flood water inside the 17,000-acre swamp basin to drain more quickly across the elevated road into Bayou Manchac.

In a new lawsuit, Dennis Caruso alleges those actions flooded his 124 acres in East Baton Rouge Parish across the bayou from Iberville and Ascension parishes and near the road cuts. They also caused severe land erosion and destruction of heavy construction equipment, a doublewide trailer, an ATV, truck,  bulkhead, shed and hardwood trees on the site, Caruso's suit alleges.

Michael Ricci, a plaintiff's attorney for Caruso, declined to comment Tuesday on the lawsuit.

Caruso, who filed his suit May 8 in the 19th Judicial District Court, alleges the road cuts and other measures flooded his property at 9939 Manchac Road near St. Gabriel for at least six months, depriving him of the use of his land. 

Caruso, who now resides in New Orleans, isn't disputing that the parishes had the power to take the emergency actions but says they amounted to a taking by the government for which he is due compensation under the state constitution. 

Iberville follows Ascension's lead and cuts road for flood relief in Spanish Lake

In the days after the historic August 2016 storm and flooding, parish officials in Ascension and Iberville announced they would be digging out sections of Alligator Bayou/Manchac Road to allow water to escape the Spanish Lake area and the next-door Bluff Swamp. Ascension also used portable pumps to move water from the basin to Manchac. 

The elevated road runs parallel to Bayou Manchac and acts as a sort of dam that holds back water draining northeast from the huge basin toward Manchac. Typically, two small floodgates underneath the road control drainage from the swamp to Manchac. Each parish controls one of the floodgates.

But as the floodwaters rose in August 2016, water from Manchac flowed actually south over the elevated road for three days, filling the basin, authorities said at the time.

Ascension officials then blamed that flooding on runoff from Baton Rouge's growing southern areas. The runoff was backing up, upstream, into Manchac and the swamp basin, the officials claimed. Major drainage bayous for south Baton Rouge empty in Manchac just downstream from where the road was overtopped.

Ascension and Iberville officials had said at the time it could take months to drain the basin through the floodgates, leaving homeowners in the Ridge Road and Bayou Paul areas stranded and unable to return.

But once cuts were made in the road, portable pumps were installed and the floodgates were opened, it alleviated the situation for those residents.

Iberville Parish President Mitch Ourso estimated at the time that 1.6 billion gallons of water had flowed through the various outlets from the basin and into Manchac in a 24-hour period.

At the time, Iberville Parish engineers estimated rain from the August 2016 storm and resulting backwater flooding had sent as much as 17 billion gallons of water flowing into the swamp basin.

Since the flood, Ascension has been working on plans for a major upgrade to its drainage structures for Bluff Swamp, while Iberville has been upgrading its floodgate at Alligator Bayou for the Spanish Lake area.

But Caruso claims in his lawsuit that Iberville has failed to install a 300-foot-long bulkhead on his property that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers required the parish to build for the permit for the new flood control infrastructure.

Caruso is seeking compensation for his losses and for attorney's fees and costs with legal interest. 

In addition to Ourso, the defendants named in the suit, in their public roles, are Iberville Parish Council President Matthew Jewell, Iberville Public Works Director Mark Miglacio, Ascension Parish Council Chairman Bill Dawson, Ascension Parish President Kenny Matassa and former Ascension Public Works Director Bill Roux. 

Kyle Gautreau, communications director for Ascension government, declined to comment Wednesday on potential or pending legislation. Iberville Parish did not return a call for comment by deadline Wednesday.

Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter, @NewsieDave.