Amite River changes route, concerns over flooding caused by debris
CENTRAL - The thought of flooding again is still fresh in the minds of those who went through it a couple of years ago.
In August 2016, many homes in Central, northern parts of East Baton Rouge Parish and Livingston Parish flooded when heavy rains inundated the Amite River and Comite River. While legislation has passed to assess and dredge the Comite River, Central resident Marcus Michelli says a portion of the Amite River needs to be looked at more closely.
"Everyone in Livingston and everyone, everyone's on pins and needles about these rainstorms because everyone out here knows this is the issue," said Michelli.
This past weekend, Michelli and his family took a kayak trip down the Amite River. They hopped in near Watson and ended at Florida Blvd. Michelli says just south of Magnolia Bridge, at the Central and Denham Springs line, the river has changed direction.
He says what was once an area where the river turned into a horseshoe, is dry dirt. The river has choked off that horseshoe, cutting a path through the trees, knocking a good portion of them down into the new rivers new path. He says the river now makes an almost 90-degree turn.
"The water was rushing through there 15-20 miles an hour," he said. "A lot of debris, a lot of trees, a lot of oak trees that made it pretty much impassable."
While on their trip down the river, at that specific location Michelli says some areas were only inches deep and his kayak scraped the bottom silt. Other areas were feet deep and debris blocked the flow.
The Amite River Basin Commission tells WBRZ rivers are constantly changing and seeking a way to move water more efficiently, but what's happened on the Amite can't be ignored and must be assessed. The concern is how the river change impacts properties, the flow of the river, and flooding. The Commission says there is no formal program in the state for maintaining waterways.
A bill, authored by Central Republican Sen. Bodi White was recently approved to allow the Comite River to be dredged, cleared, and snagged. The Comite is part of the Scenic Rivers Act, which prohibits dredging and realignment of the waterway to preserve the free-flowing waterways for natural, cultural, and recreational purposes.
This part of the Amite River is not part of the scenic rivers system, but Michelli thinks the Amite has been overlooked.
"I think this is the main issue, this debris, this river silt," he said. "Unless they dredge this channel out, anything that they're doing north of us is not going to make a difference."
Michelli says when the river needs to drain the next time, he's worried it might not drain as fast as he would like.
Tuesday, WBRZ reached out to a number of agencies for information on who would be responsible for attacking the debris and dredging of the Amite River. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the Department of Transportation and Development, the Amite River Basin Commission does not claim responsibility. WBRZ has also reached out to parish officials in East Baton Rouge and Livingston Parishes.
Livingston Parish says it plans to visit the spot next week and get a price to have that debris removed.