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Feds: Iberville Parish does not need permit for aqua dams

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ST. GABRIEL- The United States Army Corps of Engineers said Monday that Iberville Parish does not need a permit to operate aqua dams in the event of a flood because they would be placed on a parish road and not in the wetlands or a waterway.

That announcement comes at a time where East Baton Rouge Parish is at odds with Iberville Parish over the aqua dams that would block water from Bayou Manchac from spilling into the Spanish Lake Basin. The concern is Iberville could possibly flood residents in East Baton Rouge Parish if the dams are deployed.

Monday, a cadre of parish officials tested out the aqua dams and learned how to deploy them during emergencies. The three miles of aqua dams would cover parts of Alligator Bayou Road in Ascension Parish and Manchac Road in Iberville Parish. Iberville Parish President Mitch Ourso said the hope is to keep the water in its channel.

"I don't want any harm on Baton Rouge residents, but in the same breath, I have to protect my people," Ourso said. "Hopefully everything fairs out well."

The test of the aqua dams today comes at a time where East Baton Rouge Parish is formulating a plan to take action against Iberville. Two weeks ago, the parish attorney's office held a meeting with the Director of Transportation and Drainage. Attempts to find out what was discussed and what East Baton Rouge is going to do to block Iberville were not immediately clear. Lea Ann Batson told WBRZ two weeks ago she would not discuss their strategies.

"I'm ready for any and all things they shoot at us," Ourso said.

This year, East Baton Rouge Parish asked what permits Iberville received for the aqua dams. Ourso said he didn't need one since he took an oath to protect and serve the people.

Today, the United States Army Corps of Engineers agreed that Iberville does not need a permit for the aqua dams. A spokesperson said usually the federal agency doesn't get involved in parish to parish disputes.

"Placement of temporary water control features such as HESCO baskets or inflatable dams on a roadway does not fall under USACE regulatory authority," Matt Rowe with USACE said.  "However, if these structures were to be placed in a wetland or waterway, the entity would have to receive an Emergency Permit for the placement of a temporary structure in Section 10 waters."

Ourso said the dams are ready and will be used if there is any sort of threat that requires their deployment.

"I'd rather go down doing what's right then stand on the side doing nothing," Ourso said. "This is the quickest, most economical way if the water comes over the bank again and keep it in the channel where the water is from."

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