Songy tells Ascension officials floodgate will remain open

TRYVE BRACKIN, Post/South Editor
CONTROVERSIAL CONTROLS...This is the floodgate at Alligator Bayou that has sparked a controversy between Iberville Parish officials.

Iberville Parish Chief Administrative Officer Edward Songy told members of the East Ascension Drainage Board Monday night the floodgate on Alligator Bayou will remain open.

The floodgate is in Iberville Parish. During high water it prevents Bayou Manchac from backing up into Alligator Bayou and the Spanish Lake Basin. The gate keeps Alligator Bayou from emptying into Bayou Manchac when it is closed and there is no flooding of areas. The recent opening of the floodgate by parish officials affects property owners and businesses in both Iberville and Ascension Parishes.

Several environmental groups spoke at the meet of the Drainage Board in Gonzales Monday night indicating there has been environmental damage done to Spanish Lake since the floodgate was opened March 24 by order of Iberville Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso. Several speakers maintained Alligator Bayou Tours has been put out of business since the opening of the floodgate and harm has been done to fish and wildlike due to lack of water in the lake. However, Parish Environmentalist John Clark stated at the meeting that the artificial maintaining of high water level in the bayou with the floodgate closed for years has been the reason for ecological damage and flooded lands in and around Spanish Lake.

St. Gabriel Mayor George Grace also spoke at the meeting and said previous flooding in the area of the parish city has disappeared since the opening of the floodgate. Grace said allowing the floodgate to stay open since late March has created a much quicker flow of excess water from canals and drainage in the St. Gabriel area.

A representative of the La. Environmental Action Network (LEAN), Kathy Haggar spoke of dredging Alligator Bayou and canals of Spanish Lake could remedy the situation of the recent flooding of Alligator Bayou. She said that could keep Alligator Bayou Tours open. She cited cut grass as a source of blocking up the bayous and canals to the lake since the floodgate was opened. The water level in the lake has dropped since the floodgate was opened, but that was to be expected. Clark has stated that was a good environmental action because damage has been done to the lake due to high water level.

Two Ascension Parish councilmen asked that Iberville Parish officials compromise and close the floodgate until a study of the area is completed in late summer by The Shaw Group, which was hired by the Lake Pontchartrain Level Board. Ascension Parish President Tommy Martinez said he would work with the recommendations of the Shaw study. He also said dredging the bayou could help the tour business as well as help drainage in St. Gabriel if Iberville Parish officials do decide to close the floodgate until the Shaw study is completed. Martinez said East Baton Rouge Parish also should be involved in the situation because of a flow of water from that area is involved. He said dredging the bayou would cost money, but Iberville and EBR Parish could assist. Drainage Board Chairman Randy Clouatre backed Martinez’s statement saying that East Baton Rouge Parish should be involved in a possible dredging solution.

Songy, however, remained firm that the floodgate will remain open. Songy stated that closing the floodgate would be a violation of the Louisiana Civil Code 658, which states it is illegal to interfere with the natural flow of water.

Since the initial time Ourso stated Iberville officials would open the floodgate, the parish president said parish landowners and businesses involved were insisting and discussing potential lawsuits if the floodgate remained closed.