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Flooding funding needed in Concordia Parish

VIDALIA — Concordia Parish may be one step closer to a solution for its age-old flooding problem — but it still must find the funding.

The Concordia Parish Economic and Industrial Development District Board of Commissioners unanimously voted to make two multi-million dollar drainage projects a top priority at its Wednesday meeting, with a special focus on a water control structure at Brushy Bayou near Jonesville.

The Brushy Bayou structure is estimated to cost $4.5 million, drainage committee chairman Bill Beasley said. It would divert water from the northeast portion of the parish into the Tensas River.

Beasley said water currently meanders down the Scenic River before ending up in the Atchafalaya River.

“When it rains heavily, water builds up in the system, and it can cause flooding,” Beasley said.

The Tensas River also drains into the Atchafalaya River, but Beasley said his plan would drain water more quickly.

Beasley estimated maintenance on the Brushy Bayou structure would cost $66,500 per year. Police Jury President Melvin Ferrington said the jury would pay for the cost of maintenance if the committee could secure funding to build the structure at Brushy Bayou.

The second drainage structure is planned for Black River Lake at a cost of $3.5 million, though Beasley said it would be less effective than Brushy Bayou.

“Our focus has to be getting water to the pumping plant and out of the ring levee faster,” Beasley said. “If we are going to focus on one, it should be at Brushy Bayou.”

A one-mill drainage tax was voted down in December, with 773 in favor and 623 in favor. The tax would have generated $133,700 annually to maintain the structures at Black River Lake and Brushy Bayou.

“The area that would pay the least and benefit the most is the Airport Road area and Ridgecrest,” Beasley said. “They voted it down. They wouldn’t have had to pay a dime.”

With the measure voted down, Beasley said the drainage committee is looking at other ways to secure funding to build both structures.

The drainage committee made the short list for a $3.6 million Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development grant, submitted in October. It must conduct a $300,000 watershed study before receiving funding. The study would provide more information about how water flows in Concordia Parish.

The committee is also hoping to secure a $4.5 million Federal Emergency Management Agency grant, but Ferrington said landing the grant is unlikely.

Beasley said the committee would have to look at alternate options to secure funding, if neither grant attempt is successful. He proposed having a meeting with local legislators and parish officials to develop a plan.

“We need support starting at our local level, then in Baton Rouge and then in Washington,” Beasley said. “The clock is ticking on Concordia Parish drainage.”