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Iberville Parish President promises flood wall to block EBR drainage

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PLAQUEMINE- More than a year after a sophisticated series of aqua dams were purchased to hold water back in Bayou Manchac during high rain events, Iberville Parish President Mitch Ourso unveiled a more permanent plan to build a flood wall.

"Come hell or high water, I'm going to protect our people on the east bank," Ourso said.

The parish purchased aqua dams after water spilled out of Bayou Manchac during flooding in August 2016 into Iberville Parish and the Spanish Lake Basin. The water sat for weeks until the road was sliced open to allow the water to drain. As a result of the flooding, some residents living in St. Gabriel, Prairieville and Geismar dealt with the water for weeks.

"If the wall's there, the trigger stays cocked," Ourso said.

In December, Iberville Parish applied for a hazard mitigation grant that would cover nearly 75 percent of the costs associated to build the $3 million wall. The project would include more than two miles of flood barriers that would range in height from two to three feet. The wall would be below the base flood elevation in the area.

"I'm all for the capital city expanding their boundaries and growth, but come on," Ourso said. "Not at someone else's expense and causing me these issues here."

Ourso said if the parish doesn't receive the grant, they will find a way to pay for it on their own. The need for a more permanent flood barrier comes as the aqua dams take three days to deploy, and have a risk of failure during high water events.

"One of my missions besides getting this bridge over here in Iberville Parish is getting a wall over here to stop floodwater from East Baton Rouge," Ourso said.

Fred Raiford, the head of East Baton Rouge Parish's transportation and drainage department said he was not made aware of Iberville's plans for a flood wall. He said the parish is opposed to any flood control structure that would negatively affect East Baton Rouge. They are exploring all of the parish's options.

"I'm supposed to tear everything down and be a relief valve for East Baton Rouge," Ourso said. "Not going to happen. Not going to happen. So, I'm just trying to do the same thing the levee district does. Keep the water in the Mississippi River inside the boundaries. I want to keep Manchac in its boundaries."

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