Wetland consultant says more needs to be done to protect city from flooding
BATON ROUGE - Calls for building moratoriums are spreading and getting louder. Discussions are underway in several parishes in response to recent flooding.
One man is taking that discussion to the next level. Lee Patterson is a wetland consultant out of New Orleans who lives in Baton Rouge. He says there's too much building going on and not enough research devoted to each project being proposed.
"I think the time is kind of now or never," said Patterson. "There's no more time to say there's nothing more we can do about it."
When Patterson's neighbors flooded a few weeks ago he saw it as a time to speak up. He says change is needed, which is why he started a change.org petition to stop flooding in Baton Rouge.
"I don't think it's change that's going to ruin the city or cause some kind of collapse of the housing development industry, I think it's stuff that's going to benefit everybody," he said.
In the petition, Patterson says he fears developers are making money at the expense of Baton Rouge homeowners. He says they're building so fast, gobbling up wetlands, they're not taking a look at what's happening in surrounding areas. As a result, he says developers impact more wetlands than they claim.
"A lot of these areas I've worked in and I know how much water they get on them and when I see them putting up new neighborhoods, it's like, I've seen five feet of water where there are now houses so how can that not be contributing to what's going on right now?" he said.
Patterson says developments of various sizes are being permitted and it all adds up. He says it can be a reason why neighborhoods that never saw flooding before are experiencing it now. He is asking the parish better protect its natural resources instead of building quickly.
He says at the absolute minimum, the parish put new regulations on vegetative buffers around aquatic resources and hire new staff who can comment on behalf of citizens on how new developments can affect the city.
The City-Parish and Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome met with Patterson last week via Zoom. The mayor heard his ideas and informed him of the multiple drainage projects in the works.
The City-Parish says that since 2016, EBR has been making changes to the Unified Development Code as it relates to floodplain management. Some changes include requiring a new development design for a 25-year storm event, an increase from a 10-year event. In 2019, the parish established requirements for the preservation of open space in residential developments. More changes are coming soon based on data from the Stormwater Master Plan.
Patterson says he plans to send the mayor more ideas this week.