Parish, landowners strike deal on floodgate

Deidre Cruse, Governmental Reporter

The Iberville Parish Council last week approved an agreement with a group of Eastside landowners to keep the Alligator Bayou floodgate except when there is a threat of backwater flooding.

The action came after an 20-minute executive session to discuss a lawsuit Alligator Bayou Swamp Tours filed against Iberville and Ascension parishes in an attempt to force the gates closed.

“This brings the landowners in agreement with the parish over the operation of the lock,” Parish Attorney Scott Stassi said.

Stassi said the LeBlanc landowners already have intervened in the lawsuit on the side of the parish, as did the City of St. Gabriel.

He said he and F. Barry Marionneaux, a special attorney in the case, suggested the agreement with the landowners.

A year ago, after several Eastside landowners threatened to sue, Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso Jr. set off a controversy by opening the floodgate to allow natural drainage through the area except when the area is threatened by backwater flooding from

Bayou Manchac, as he said was intended when the floodgate was constructed.

Keeping the gate closed kept water levels higher not only in Alligator Bayou, a benefit to the tour boat business, but also on private land, whose owners said it damaged their woods and diminished the value of their property. Baton Rouge environmental groups have sided with the tour company.

The owners of some 8,000 acres of land signed onto the agreement.

Any property owner who thinks the parish has failed to live up to its obligations under the agreement has 30 days to file a notice for corrective action. If the parish fails to act to correct a grievance, a property owner file suit and seek an injunction or other remedies.

The Parish Council voted 8-0 in favor of the agreement. Councilmen Leonard “Buck” Jackson of St. Gabriel, Salaris Butler of Seymourville and Howard Oubre Jr. and Terry J. Bradford, both of Plaquemine, were absent from the meeting. Council Chairman Eugene P. Stevens Jr. of Plaquemine did not vote.

In other action, the council adopted a cooperative endeavor agreements with the parish's six municipalities to administer a housing rehabilitation and assistance program and an infrastructure improvement program that are part of the $44 million Hurricane Gustav recovery program, and authorized an application for $750,000 for the parish's Land Use Commission to complete a zoning and code enforcement plan.

Parish President Ourso reported that Chief Administrative Officer Edward A. “Lucky” Songy Jr. has selected a Chicago company, with offices in Atlanta to appraise the former River West Medical Center property.

Ourso is exploring whether the parish could buy the hospital facility so that it could more easily qualify for hurricane recovery money for extensive repairs. A group of local doctors, Westside Physicians, currently owns the hospital and grounds.

The appraisal will cost the parish $6,500 plus expenses, Ourso said. He said Songy is scheduled to meet with a representative of the appraisal company on Monday, and the appraisal should be completed in about 30 days.