Baton Rouge firms make pitch on state flood control management projects

Bayou Postillion

The state Office of Community Development heard oral presentations today from firms vying for a three-year contract—worth anywhere from $20 million to $50 million—to serve as program manager of the state’s $1.2 billion Watershed Management Initiative, a series of federally funded flood-control projects.

Though OCD officials will not discuss who submitted proposals, citing a legally mandated “blackout” period in effect until a winning proposal is selected, two local teams delivered presentations.

One is led by CSRS and includes engineering firm Arcadis and communications consulting firm Emergent Method. Another is headed by AECOM and includes the Center for Planning Excellence and SSA Consultants.

The contract is expected to be awarded by the end of this month, though the first batch of funds—Community Development Block Grants from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department—likely will not be available until mid-summer at the earliest.

The procurement process has largely gone unnoticed by the general public, but the contract at stake is a big deal in local engineering and consulting circles and competition is intense. Several of the firms bidding on the competing teams are already doing considerable work in the watershed or coastal space.

Arcadis, which is on the CSRS team, has an ongoing $4.5 million contract with the CPRA—one of five members of the “council” that oversees the Watershed Initiative—to do initial implementation of the watershed based floodplain management program.

In late February, the CPRA extended the scope of Arcadis’ work by $1 million to do “continued work supporting OCD and the implementation.” Arcadis did not return calls seeking comment.

Citing the blackout period, OCD Executive Director Pat Forbes has declined to explain how a firm bidding on a state contract can have a related contract extended—during the blackout period—by an agency that it would be working for should it be awarded the new contract.  

Emergent Method, another member of the CSRS team, currently has a $260,000 contract with OCD to do outreach and engagement work on, among other things, watershed management. Before bidding on the contract with CSRS, Emergent Method sought an opinion from the Louisiana Ethics Board to determine whether its existing contract would prevent it from bidding on the new contract. The board said it would not, but added that if the CSRS team is selected, then Emergent Method will have to give up its $260,000 contract, which runs until 2021.

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