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A car drives over a drainage ditch with culverts in Livingston Parish.

LIVINGSTON — A new set of rules that will force developers to take into account heavier storms in their design plans is about to take effect in Livingston Parish. 

The new regulations, which the parish council approved in a unanimous vote on Thursday,  apply to all new applications to the parish for planning permits.

The ordinance brings the parish more in line with standards already imposed by neighboring parishes and are the most significant the parish has adopted since thousands of homes were damaged in the August 2016 flood. 

Denham Springs-area Councilman R.C. "Bubba" Harris briefly suggested Thursday holding off on approving the ordinance, noting there are many other ordinances that need revisions.

But Watson-area Councilman Garry "Frog" Talbert said it should have a vote, citing the unanimous approval from the ordinance committee last week.

"I think every engineer in the room thought it was a great thing, including our parish engineer, and you don't have a developer in this room speaking against it tonight," Talbert said.

Under the new rules, the parish would require developers of all new subdivisions and commercial enterprises to draft drainage impact studies that look at the upstream and downstream effects of the project during 24-hour storms that have a chance of happening every 10, 25 and 100 years.

In accordance with those studies, developers would be required to dig ponds that retain rainfall from a 25-year storm and release it slowly, so the runoff rate does not exceed pre-development levels.

The ponds are the major front-line method through which parishes try to mitigate the effect of more roads, roofs and concrete from home and business construction.

Currently, the parish only requires ponds that retain a 10-year, 24-hour storm.

The new regulations also cut out exemptions from drafting drainage impact studies and allow the parish to require developers to mitigate for the effects of a 100-year flood, if a drainage study shows a negative impact.

Also on Thursday night, the council considered ways to bring recycling services to residents of Livingston Parish. 

Two weeks ago, Walker resident Muriel Laws came to the council with signatures from 500 residents she says want recycling services.

Council Chairman Shane Mack contacted the parish's trash contractor, Waste Management, and the company sent an official to discuss options.

Donald Hains, who works in public sector solutions for the company, presented three options. He said residents could participate in a subscription-based mail-in recycling program. The parish could offer recycling events when people can bring their bottles and cans to a central location. Or, Waste Management could provide a compacting dumpster that residents could use to drop off recycling more regularly.

Hains did not propose a plan for curbside recycling pickup. He said after the meeting that this service would require fuller exploration of logistics and a contract with the parish.

Right now, Livingston Parish residents outside of the city of Denham Springs do not have recycling service.

The council decided to post a link about the recycling boxes on its website as a way of promoting the option. They asked Hains to provide more information about costs associated with a compactor or recycling days.

Hains advised that costs of recycling have shot up recently to $95 per ton, because China, which accepts most plastic recyclables, has upped its standards on contamination, such as juice left in the bottom of a bottle. 

Mack said he liked the idea of offering people the option to recycle, but he does not want a situation where people would be required to pay for recycling.

"I think we should have some way shape or form for those who choose to recycle to be able to," Mack said. "But there are some less fortunate who can't afford to recycle, and I don’t think we should force that."

He added that recycling is not the parish's top priority right now. 

"There are a whole lot of other things we need to take care of, and we can't afford to dedicate a whole lot of money to that right now," Mack said.

In other business Thursday night, the parish council:

  • Changed the meeting start times from 6 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. The parish council typically meets on the second and fourth Thursdays of each month.
  • Approved a standing debris removal contract with Minnesota-based Ceres Environmental Services. The one-year contract will have two one-year extensions. The firm has the current contract and will complete the $50 million worth of U.S. Department of Agriculture funded drainage work that the parish is doing.

Follow Caroline Grueskin on Twitter, @cgrueskin.