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Work to widen Ward Creek stalled by slow FEMA application process

1 year 10 months 2 weeks ago Thursday, July 14 2022 Jul 14, 2022 July 14, 2022 9:37 PM July 14, 2022 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE - Exactly one year and one day after the City-Parish announced a plan to widen Ward Creek at a particular choke point under a Siegen Lane overpass, no visible work has begun.

City leaders say there's more to it than what meets the eye.

"We don't have a choice. We have to follow this federal process in order to complete the project, so it's going to take a couple of years to get through that federal process," said Mark Armstrong, a spokesperson for Mayor-President Broome.

Behind the scenes, a lengthy application process for the FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant has stalled the big dig everyone had high hopes for. Originally, construction was announced to be expected at the end of 2022, but the goals now have changed. 

"We can't just run in and do what we'd like to do. If that was the case, we would have probably already done the work," said Fred Raiford with City-Parish Transportation and Drainage.

In the last year, FEMA has approved phase one of the project, which includes preliminary planning, engineering work and environmental surveys. Phase two, which includes finalized details of the project, is still not approved. 

"I would say that once we've finished the plans and submitted, I think sometime by mid-year of next year we would be able to bid the job out with FEMA's approval and then be under construction sometime in the third quarter of next year," said Raiford.

But not all projects involving federal funding move at such a slow pace. Drainage work began the day after the Metro Council approved funding from the American Rescue Plan Act.

"The reason we were able to do it so quickly is because the federal process that was required to use the American Rescue Plan dollars was not nearly the same as it is for this federal process out here," Armstrong said.

The project is said to reduce flooding potential greatly, especially for residents of the Morning Glen and Audubon Terrace neighborhoods.

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