WALKER – After nearly eight inches of rain fell on Friday morning, Walker is still in the process of drying out. Walker Elementary and the City Hall were among the buildings that took on water across Livingston Parish.
Mayor Jimmy Watson said pointed to a couple of areas of concern including the West Colyell Creek and the difficulty of water getting passed the interstate.
“[The creek] always takes a little time to drain,” Watson said. “Part of the issue is getting passed the interstate.”
He said the city, which is encompassed by Gravity Drainage District 5, has changed out 200 or more culverts in the last couple of years, but getting the water beyond the barrier that is Interstate 12 is a challenge. Before the Great Flood of August 2016, Taylor Creek, which runs underneath the interstate, was cleaned out, but “is mucked up again,” Watson explained.
Watson provided the information on a phone interview as the Walker Municipal Building was closed while a cleaning crew worked to remove carpet and dry out the building.
District 7 Parish Councilman Tracy Girlinghouse similarly pointed to West Colyell as a source of concern when it comes to flooding issues.
“We’re cleaning out West Colyell,” Girlinghouse said. “We’re also working to widen it, but we’re still working on logistics.” Some of those logistics include purchasing land from owners so that the creek could be widened through the city. He pointed out that Walker benefits from having a funded drainage district, highlighting the relatively clean ditches and canals that can be seen throughout the municipality.
But he also reiterated the need for funded districts outside of the city limits.
“The major issue is once [the draining water] gets to the other side of Buddy Ellis, it hits an unfunded drainage district,” Girlinghouse said. “We need to make sure everybody pays their fair share to get the water out. We have to get the lower portion of the parish on board.”
Eighty percent of Livingston Parish’s land area lies within gravity drainage districts that remain unfunded, Girlinghouse said. Voters in those areas have twice defeated measures that would have provided funding mechanisms for the districts, most recently in 2017.
The funded districts are Gravity Drainage Districts 1 (Denham Springs), 2 (Watson area), and 5 (Walker) and benefit from revenue provided by a half-cent sales tax. District 1 also benefits from a property tax millage which will be up for a 10-year renewal in October.
Districts 6 (areas north of Walker and eastward) and 7 (southern portions of the parish including French Settlement, Port Vincent, Springfield, Albany, and Killian) would have had similar funding streams had the measures passed two years ago.
When asked about Girlinghouse’s pointing to the unfunded drainage districts as part of Walker’s drainage problem, Watson said, “I can’t comment on that except to say he’s right.”
Girlinghouse spoke to the News by phone from his home in Walker. He said when he looked out his window, more than 24 hours after the storm, he could still see water surrounding him on the street outside.
“I’m living the nightmare,” he said. “I’m on an island.”