State senator urges Corps to push diversion projects to mitigate flood risks

State Sen. Eddie Lambert, R-Prairieville, is calling for the advancement of a roughly $877 million sediment diversion effort—as well as more diversion projects in general—between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

In a speech today to the Press Club of Baton Rouge, Lambert advocated for what he called a “common-sense approach” to coastal restoration and flood control, saying several strategic diversions—such as the proposed Union Freshwater Diversion project, outlined in the state’s 2017 Coastal Master Plan (page 121)—could easily divert more than 100,000 cubic feet per second from the Mississippi River into the wetlands on both sides of the river between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

It’s a better alternative, he says, to raising Mississippi River levees, which are constantly at risk of breaking. Acknowledging the diversion work would be complex, Lambert says it’s still manageable and is ultimately more cost-effective than waiting for a natural disaster to happen.

“The problem is we engineer things forever,” says Lambert, who vice-chairs the state Senate’s Natural Resources Committee. “We’ve studied it forever, we know it can be done, we have the technology to do it and it’s easier to do it.”

The chief obstacle Lambert faces comes from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which he says needs to begin “reevaluating its management of the river.” The Corps, he continues, needs to embrace more sediment diversion projects in general.

On a local level, Lambert supports the flood-control efforts of Ascension and Livingston parish officials to place limits on the amount of fill property owners can use.

“If you start putting in too much fill, you’re going to have problems with your foundation. It may affect the floodplain, because when you start building up, you’re going to trap water in different areas,” he says. “We need to look at how we’re going to develop in the future.”

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