Parish president: Alligator Bayou structure to stay open pending study

DEIDRE CRUSE

Iberville Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso Jr. said the Alligator Bayou flood control structure would remain open at least until the findings on a study underway on the Bayou Manchac watershed and probably past that.

“I’m holding pat,” Ourso said. He said St. Gabriel Mayor George L. Grace was thrilled with the decision. The parish president if he had known how much opening the lock would improve Eastside drainage; he would have done it 10 years ago.

The study, which the Shaw Group is conducting the study for the Ponchartrain Levee District, is due in August. Ourso said the study was to cover not only Alligator Bayou, but Bayou Manchac and the Amite River, where much of the area’s flooding problems begin.

“Say the study comes back and it says $50 million [to fix the problems],” the parish president said. “Who’s got $50 million?”

Like Ascension Parish President Tommy Martinez, Ourso said he was amenable to having Alligator Bayou dredged, provided East Baton Rouge Parish joined in the project. The question, he said, was how to pay for the project.

“I don’t have a clue how much it would cost to dredge,” Ourso said.

The Alligator Bayou lock is located near the intersection of the three parishes on the east bank.

“When we started this process everybody said [it was because] property owners were threatening litigation,” Ourso said. “That was part of it. I never knew what kind of impact it had on the people of Iberville Parish till we opened it up. It has a big impact on drainage in that area.”

He said he was tired of hearing tour boat operator Frank Bonifay complain about the damage opening the lock has done to his business, although he said he commended the boat operator for “his passion for what he has built up over there.” Bonifay, he said, needed to have similar respect for property owners in the area.

“He needs to compromise a little bit,” the parish president said. “He still has the ability to do what he needs to do. He just needs a smaller boat. Nobody is trying to make him shut down.”

Ourso said, even with the lock open and allowing drainage, there is four to six feet of water in Alligator Bayou, enough to accommodate a smaller tour boat.

“He needs to get over it, suck it up and do what he needs to do for his business,” he said.

Ourso said he met recently with Bonifay, property owners, Ascension Parish officials and others, before making the decision to keep the floodgate open.