DONALDSONVILLE — Ascension Parish officials want to see more information before they accept the Army Corps of Engineers' recent statements that a $255 million waterway clearing project in East Baton Rouge Parish would have a minimal impact on downstream communities.

The comments came Thursday as Ascension Parish officials aired some skepticism, laced with light sarcasm, about whose engineering conclusions to trust, whether it comes to flooding or the strength of the Sunshine Bridge.

Parish President Kenny Matassa told the council Thursday that he had asked the Corps for its analysis of the dredging and clearing plan's impact, which would speed up water flow in five bayous or creeks that empty into the Amite River or Bayou Manchac.

"A week ago, I asked to see the models," Matassa said, with a slight smirk, "because when you fill up Manchac, it's coming our way."

Matassa's comment came moments after Councilman Randy Clouatre reiterated his interest in reopening stalled litigation with Livingston Parish over the Laurel Ridge levee extension project. Clouatre alluded to a dilemma with scientific modeling: the layman's perception of their validity can often be in the eye of beholder.

"Right," Matassa said. "We had a model that showed the Sunshine Bridge should have fallen down too."

In May, a state highway bridge official told a federal panel investigating a crane barge crash into the Mississippi River bridge that a computer model showed the span should have come down after the Oct. 12 crash. The bridge never fell but was shut completely and then partially for months before emergency repairs were finished. 

Rene Poche, Corps spokesman, said the modeling on the bayou clearing project in Baton Rouge isn't final and won't be ready until next month.

Email David J. Mitchell at dmitchell@theadvocate.com

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