Residents living along a flood-prone stretch of Dawson Creek near Acadian Thruway were told Tuesday evening by a city-parish official that improvements were planned for the creek, one of five drainage canals scheduled to be dredged by 2022 as part of a $255 million flood control initiative. But without the local dollars needed to get the project moving, there’s no telling when work will begin.
As reported by Daily Report two weeks ago, none of the drainage projects have moved forward because neither the state nor city has put up the $65 million local match, of which some $40 million is required upfront. At the time, city-parish officials said Baton Rouge didn’t have the money to meet the local match requirements.
Transportation and Drainage Director Fred Raiford says he told meeting attendees to send him photos and videos of heavily flooded areas not part of the canal to see what immediate needs could be addressed. However, Raiford says cleaning Dawson Creek—an extension of Ward’s Creek, which is included in the $255 million initiative—would not begin until funding is secured.
As planned, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would clear debris and make other improvements to five key drainage canals in the parish, including the Bayou Fountain, Jones Creek, Beaver Bayou, Blackwater Bayou and Ward’s Creek. But before doing so, the city-parish must sign an agreement with the Corps.
“We can’t legally sign an agreement and not have some funding mechanism to pay for the rights of way,” Raiford says. “As soon as we sign the agreement, the engineering work will begin.”
The rest of the $25 million in local dollars can be paid out over a 30-year period, says Chief Administrative Officer Kelvin Hill, adding the city-parish has been working with the governor’s office to identify potential funding sources.
It would still take three years to complete the projects, says Hill, but that timeline can’t begin until the city-parish comes up with a local match.
“Every day has been a day spent trying to secure funding,” says Raiford. “We’re doing everything possible to get the funds we need to do these projects—they’re so badly needed for the parish.”