Thanks to a thriving economy, a high-performing public school system and a low crime rate, Ascension Parish is growing at an unprecedented rate. However, such rapid growth has recently presented challenges that threaten to slow, and even halt, the economic momentum we are currently experiencing.
Earlier this year, the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality declared Bayou Manchac an impaired waterbody, and similar declarations for New River and Blind River are imminent without significant changes to the way raw sewage is processed in the parish. That is stalling permits for residential and commercial development.
This summer, Ascension Parish officials received a proposal from Ascension Sewer to invest over $215 million in the development and construction of wastewater collection and treatment facilities for the East Bank of Ascension Parish, offering coverage for the most populated areas in the parish. Structured as a public-private partnership, the proposal allows the parish to retain ownership and ultimate control of the sewer system as a public asset and proposes affordable and predictable sewer rates, comparable to nearby parishes.
A recent survey of the Ascension Chamber membership showed that 95% of the respondents supported the Ascension Sewer proposal to initiate the buildout of a parishwide wastewater treatment system. Of those same respondents, 65% identified the need to stop the continued contamination of our parish ditches and waterways as the primary reason to connect and modernize the parish’s outdated and failing sewer treatment system.
If the parish does not move forward with Ascension Sewer’s proposal, we risk the continued contamination of the waterways where our children fish, swim and play. We risk forfeiting our local authority to a consent decree by state and federal departments such as the DEQ and EPA. We also face the risk of increased taxes to subsidize the increased project costs associated with state and federal buildout orders. Given these risks, the benefits of a partnership between the parish and Ascension Sewer are all too clear.
The Ascension Chamber is confident that the due diligence underway by independent experts in vetting the proposal will give our parish council members the confidence to move forward in voting in favor of this proposal on Nov. 21. We are in full support of Ascension Sewer’s proposal as this important infrastructure project will enhance economic development in the parish and, more importantly, will improve the quality of life for our residents in the decades to come.
president, Ascension Parish Chamber of Commerce