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Flooding concerns linger over concrete wall planned for new I-10 widening project

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BATON ROUGE - Residents in the Santa Maria subdivision are sounding the alarm this evening, after the state announced part of the I-10 widening project between Baton Rouge and Prairieville will include a concrete wall. 

That wall turned into the subject of litigation following the August 2016 flood in Livingston Parish. Elected leaders and residents in Walker, Denham Springs and other communities in Livingston Parish say the wall acted as a dam. 

Hugo Marrero still has sandbags outside his Santa Maria home, one year after the Great Flood of 2016. 

"It came within one inch of our house of coming in," Marrero said. "Many of our neighbors did get water, three to six inches to a foot."

Tonight, Marrero is troubled about what the State is planning to do just a stone's throw from his neighborhood. 

"We've seen examples of poor planning and failing to maintain systems properly," Marrero said. "As we observe things in New Orleans, we certainly don't want to have another catastrophe like that flood. We can't control rain, but we can control where it goes."

Currently,  plans are in the works to widen I-10 from two lanes to three in both the East and Westbound directions. Video showing water on one side of I-12 but not on the south side is what they say caused major flooding from the wall. 

Shawn Wilson is the Department of Transportation and Development Secretary. He says the wall is required in some areas because of federal highway safety guidelines. 

"It's a real issue for us on interstates to have the necessary barriers for safety, and not manage or build it for the one in a 1000 year storm that could eventually happen," Wilson said. "The barrier will be the highest point on the interstate system from shoulder to shoulder."

Now, residents know what is being planned for certain segments of the project. They are now unsure whether it's a good idea. 

Emily LeBlanc also lives in Santa Maria and says the water was inches from getting inside. 

"We were so close before a wall, I can't imagine what would happen with a wall," LeBlanc said. 

Tonight, Leblanc and Marrero believe drainage needs to be considered so Bayou Manchac doesn't back up affecting everyone North of I-10.

"As homeowners, they should definitely take our concerns into consideration," LeBlanc said. "We will be the ones left with flooding should that happen, like the poor people in Walker and Denham. They definitely should talk to the people in the area to get our feedback because we are the ones trying to protect our homes."

In certain areas of I-10, trees will remain between Baton Rouge and Praireville. But, the area closer to Highland will have a wall due to federal requirements. Officials say they hope to break ground on the project this year. 

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