State supreme court intervenes in heated flood fight involving EBR, Iberville & Ascension
ST. GABRIEL- A state supreme court decision late in the week will allow Iberville Parish to continue to block south-flowing floodwater with temporary blockades called AquaDams.
Days earlier, a judge in Baton Rouge granted a request from East Baton Rouge officials to force Iberville to stop using the dams out of fear the system would push water back into the Baton Rouge area.
The ruling came with what the Iberville Parish President believed was a gotcha meeting with the governor where Gov. John Bel Edwards summoned Ascension, East Baton Rouge and Iberville officials to a meeting to discuss the situation in the immediate days after Monday's flooding rain.
But, a defiant and passionate Iberville Parish President said after the meeting and local judge's decision the dams would not come down. The Louisiana supreme court ruling later, on Friday evening, allowed the dams to continue in operation.
None of it mattered, though, to Iberville president Mitch Ourso. In a TV interview with Chris Nakamoto this week, he said he would fight the flood water however he wanted.
"Stay in your lane," Ourso said to East Baton Rouge. "Stay in your lane. I don't tell you how to govern East Baton Rouge. Don't tell me how to govern Iberville Parish."
Previous frustration this week
Ourso said he first learned of the restraining order East Baton Rouge obtained to get them to stop inflating aqua dams along Manchac Road during a meeting he was summoned to with Governor John Bel Edwards. Ourso described it as a sneak attack.
"I come over here with good intentions and I just got Pearl Harbored governor," Ourso said. "I don't appreciate it. It's no fault of yours and he seemed shocked. It all went downhill after that."
Ourso said no agreements were reached at the meeting.
The aqua dams have been a point of contention since they were purchased after the Great Flood of 2016. The situation has been tied up in litigation nearly every time Iberville inflates them. East Baton Rouge is concerned it will cause its residents to flood. Iberville contends it needs to inflate them to stop all of East Baton Rouge's water from flooding their residents.
Mark Wilson just moved to St. Gabriel from Baton Rouge last year. He said this week, water began crossing Manchac Road until the aqua dams were set into place.
"I think it's interesting how aggressive and determined Iberville is and Mitch Ourso is to protect people of Iberville," Wilson said. "It's impressive."
Wilson said he's grateful for the aqua dams. Parish leaders said the flooding across the road is the first time it's happened since 2016.
"It immediately stopped the flow of water," Wilson said.
Ourso said he doesn't think a judge in Baton Rouge can tell him what to do in Iberville Parish.
"They are going to have to come pick my 300 pound butt up off the road," Ourso said. "I'll lay down in the road. I'm not going no where. These dams are going to stay here till kingdom come. End of story."
Ascension Parish is in the process of installing six pumps along the road to begin pumping water out of the Spanish Lake Basin and into Bayou Manchac.
East Baton Rouge said it had nothing to add beyond the court documents that were signed this week. A hearing is scheduled for Monday over the aqua dams.
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