IMG_1500.JPG

Newly elected West Feliciana Parish President Kenny Havard signs his official commission before taking the oath of office Monday from retired 18th Judicial District Judge Jack Marionneaux, right. Havard was elected Nov. 6 and succeeds Kevin Couhig, who retired on Monday. An election to fill Havard’s legislative seat is set for Feb. 23.

ST. FRANCISVILLE — The 200-plus days of lingering Mississippi River floodwaters caused more than $30 million in damage to West Feliciana Parish roads, bridges and stream channels, parish President Kenny Havard said Monday.

Havard told the Parish Council that a group of state and federal officials met earlier Monday to survey the damaged areas after the river levels recently began dropping.

He said the total estimate "sounds bad" but it might help the entire state of Louisiana reach a damage threshold needed to get recovery assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and give the parish a source of money to repair the damages.

He said the damage includes an estimated 500,000 tons of silt the river dropped on Creek, Mahoney and other roads. The silt must be scooped up and hauled to an approved dump site, rather than just pushed off the side of the road.

The parish must find an approved site to dispose of the material or find another way to dispose of it. Havard said he will ask if the material can be dumped in low-lying land near the old ferry landing, which the parish intends to develop as a park.

Havard also said he will contact officials in South Louisiana to see if they want the silt to combat land loss on the coast.

"If they do, we can barge it to them," he said.

The parish has lost the Cat Island Road, which borders the river. It may be raised somewhat and rebuilt with limestone, if FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approve, Havard said.

Before the flood, the parish was trying to find money to restore a portion of Creek Road that collapsed during the August 2016 flood and cut off public access to the Cat Island National Wildlife Refuge.

"Now, we've got about 30 of those spots," Havard said.

In his longest report to the council since taking office Dec. 10, Havard also announced that a $9 million plan to use a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant and a loan to overhaul the parish's water system won't work as the council and then-parish President Kevin Couhig envisioned last year.

"We can't afford it," Havard said, noting that the water rate increase the council adopted last year will not be sufficient to repay the loan.

Instead, the plan will be cut to about $4 million, with the idea of adding two new wells to the system but cutting back on a plan to upgrade water lines to improve the system.

He said he hopes to have a revised plan ready in about 90 days.

In other action, the council:

  • Approved a $466,500 contract with Epic Construction LLC to build a "splash pad," restrooms and a fishing pier at the parish Sports Park.
  • Named Morgan Moss to the parish Tourist Commission over three other applicants.
  • Approved the preliminary plat for The Arbors at the Bluffs, a planned unit development on Freeland Road.