The Monday evening meeting at Walker Freshman High brought a lot of good information and ideas to the forefront – things that, as a whole, had never been considered.
Walker gathered a variety of speakers, from parish officials to engineers (and a weatherman), to discuss the hot-button issue of the day – drainage. The nearly three-hour meeting also served as a public forum for the citizens of Walker to voice their own concerns after the official presentation was concluded.
Several key statements were tossed out, listed below, that paint an interesting picture of the drainage scenario in Livingston Parish:
• There are three (3) funded drainage districts (Jamie Etheridge).
• District 5, which is funded and encompasses the City of Walker, drains south into an unfunded district (Jamie Etheridge).
• District 2, funded, drains into both districts 1 and 5 (known information).
• District 1, funded, drains itself into the Amite River via Gray’s Creek (known information).
• The majority of Livingston Parish exists in an unfunded drainage district (Mark Harrell).
• The parish has “0” tax dollars for waterway and drainage work (Mark Harrell).
• Most infrastructure, including drainage, is designed with 50-year storms in mind (which is a comparison of rainfall versus time). Many of the heavy rains of late have been 100+year storms (Kreston Brown).
• There is a “cost” to growth, and that cost is where once there were trees there’s now a pasture, or a development, which absorbs little to no water (Jay Grymes).
• Rain events do seem to be more intense over shorter periods (Jay Grymes).
Those statements, taken in conjunction, cause a slew of emotions to run through many residents of Livingston Parish. Why? Because the inherent truth that they bring to the table – the place we call home is woefully behind on drainage implements and practices; the maintenance and implementation of drainage is underfunded; and, to bring it home, according to a local meteorologist the weather has only gotten worse, with more heavy rains, and is expected to stay that way.
This isn’t a cry to throw errant dollars at drainage districts or some sort of parishwide drainage effort, if such a thing were to occur. No, only those with proper plans, budgets, and actions deserve money. However, we live in a capitalist country where the almighty dollar speaks – and you get what you pay for.
The interesting thing about drainage, and the water the flows downhill, is that it knows no economic boundary. Folks talk about political issues and perhaps a road was blacktopped here, or a ditch was dug there. Development has killed that notion – digging a ditch, now, has very little effect on the overall drainage of an area.
There’s currently a construction bridge, in Greystone Country Club, that was never removed over Sawgrass Creek. Combined with a few blockages, it causes the whole creek to back up to the old K-Mart Development. Yes – the one that now houses Planet Fitness, and Belk, nearly a mile away.
That’s just a single instance of a small blockage affecting miles of drainage. Is Gravity Drainage District 1 working on the problem? Yes, but it requires coordination between it, Greystone, DOTD, and the parish to get the job done – and that takes time.
All of this takes time as we play catchup, but that catchup will cost money and that’s a heavy burden on a community that’s recovering.
But, it’s better than the alternative, to have these issues go unfunded and unaddressed as homes, apartment complexes, and commercial buildings continue to spring out of the ground where once stood a pasture or, even worse, a forest.
At the same time, the parish cannot throw money at poor planning and no budget. Parish Councilman Jeff Ard, who pushed a drainage district in an unfunded area, learned his lesson the first time and – should he propose one again – will come with a plan, a budget, and a wholehearted request for support.
In the end, love thy neighbor takes on new meaning because, like Laine Hardy, it appears that the parish has a new rallying cry – and that be to conquer drainage.
J. McHugh David is editor and publisher of the Livingston Parish News.