Livingston Parish is seeking a continuance of the lawsuit filed over its fears of the flood risk from the Laurel Ridge Levee proposed in Ascension Parish — which would give it time to resolve a running dispute over the project with its neighboring parish, attorneys said.
Representatives pushing for the $24 million levee said Friday they have an analysis that better hones in on what the direct flood impact would be from the 4.5-mile levee extension that would be built in the St. Amant and Lake areas of eastern Ascension Parish.
Chris Moody, attorney for Livingston Parish government and Livingston Parish Gravity Drainage District No. 7, added that the parties also want to discuss other projects to offset possible flood effects from the future levee.
"At this point, we're working with both parishes, trying to seek a favorable resolution and optimistic that we can do that," added Dwight Poirrier, the attorney for the Pontchartrain Levee District, the sponsor of the levee extension on Ascension Parish government's behalf.
Late last month, Livingston officials filed for the continuance of a planned Aug. 6 hearing before 19th Judicial District Judge R. Michael Caldwell and also didn't seek a new date, a possible sign negotiations are underway. Caldwell had not ruled on the motion by late Friday afternoon.
At the same time, Livingston has added the levee district as a defendant in the suit. Only Ascension Parish and the state were defendants originally.
The parish and the levee district have agreed to split the cost of the levee, and Poirrier, the levee district's lawyer, said his district's addition to the suit was expected.
Livingston government and the drainage district filed suit May 24 in East Baton Rouge Parish to stop the levee project so officials could get more information about it amid opposition from residents in Port Vincent, French Settlement and other parts of lower Livingston who were worried the levee would worsen flooding.
Further stirring concern before the suit, a study paid for by the East Ascension drainage district came to light this spring that suggested flooding could be higher and more widespread than an earlier analysis by the Pontchartrain Levee District had suggested.
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However, that study, done by HNTB, produced results that looked at the combined effect of the levee extension and an unfunded project to raise the height of the existing flood protection levee. The study did not break out the effects from each project individually.
In their long term plans, East Ascension drainage officials have for many years seen both projects as essential pieces to improving the parish's flood protection ring in the Amite River Basin.
Poirrier said the new analysis by HNTB and the levee district's engineers, focused on the extension's impact alone.
"The models (East Ascension drainage and the Pontchartrain analysis) are now more in line with one another," Poirrier said, without offering exact details on the findings. "The approach has been to look at this one permitted project with all the correct details plugged in to both models, and essentially we are looking forward to sharing that information with Livingston and Livingston engineers so we can kind of see where we're at on that end."
Ascension officials shared a similar sentiment about the new analysis' findings as being "very close" once the existing studies on the levee project "were standardized."
"We are ready to sit down with all parties to find mutually agreeable solutions that are beneficial to both parishes," said Martin McConnell, spokesman for Ascension government.
FRENCH SETTLEMENT – A moratorium on new development. Dredging the Amite River. Stopping Ascension Parish from building the Laurel Ridge Levee …
Poirrier said some flood mitigation projects being discussed are improving a weir on the Amite River, which has been blamed for worsening flooding in Livingston. Improvements to the mouth of the Amite are also being discussed, Poirrier said.
The river, which empties into Lake Maurepas, is a major drainage outlet for runoff from Livingston, Ascension and East Baton Rouge and other parishes upstream.
Moody, the Livingston attorney, said grant dollars may be available for those and other projects.