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Drainage drama: Iberville Parish president welcomes upset EBR residents to move south

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BATON ROUGE- In a years-long saga involving drainage drama, Iberville Parish President Mitch Ourso welcomed residents of East Baton Rouge to move to Iberville if they don't want a new fee without a vote involving drainage.

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"If any of those people are not happy in East Baton Rouge, come on down south to Iberville Parish and we will welcome you," Ourso said. "I guarantee you, we won't put no fee on you without having to vote on it."

Tuesday, a judge told East Baton Rouge lawyers Iberville had the right to deploy water-blocking aquadams to prevent flooding. Judge Tonya Lurry said she would defer ruling Tuesday, but gave Iberville 15 days to provide evidence that the aquadams do not go above the 15-foot level set as a base level of flooding.

Iberville's lawyers said that evidence will be submitted. The aquadams are usually deployed on Manchac Road in St. Gabriel, and the road serves as a natural levee between Iberville and East Baton Rouge parishes.

After court, lawyers for East Baton Rouge Parish said, "No comment." Judge Lurry gave them seven days to respond to the evidence being presented.

"I think she recognized the policing power that the parish has," Ourso said. "We are only halfway there. I want to thank the judge and the 18th judicial court."

In court, attorneys for the city-parish of East Baton Rouge argued that their water is not causing flooding in Iberville.

In 2021 and 2016, WBRZ cameras captured flooding in Bayou Manchac pouring into Iberville and Ascension parishes.

"I don't know whatever engineering reports they got, but they need to go back to school," Ourso said.

East Baton Rouge has taken Iberville to federal court and brought the matter all the way up to the Louisiana Supreme Court. In May 2021, the aquadams were deployed to block water from Bayou Manchac from flooding the Spanish Lake Basin.

"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 nowhere. These dams are going to stay here 'til kingdom come... end of story."

After flooding in 2016 Iberville Parish bought the aquadams and Ourso pledged to do everything in his power to stop the flooding again.

He said it's highly ironic that Baton Rouge is now so concerned about drainage that they want to assess a fee to all property owners.

"I'm reading about some non-disclosure agreement between the feds and the city-parish of Baton Rouge," Ourso said. "All the bright minds they have in EBR parish not advising the administration that there shouldn't be full transparency."

Ourso said he's happy a judge said he had the right to deploy the aquadams in the future and intends to ask Baton Rouge to reimburse his parish for every penny they cost citizens of his parish.

"I really meant no harm to the citizens of Baton Rouge," Ourso said. "I just wanted to protect my people. I don't blame that administration for protecting its people...I get it. But if the shoe was on the other foot, how would they feel?"

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