Parish sues DOTD to unblock drainage

Deidre Cruse, Government Reporter

A state highway department contractor repairing the Milly Canal Bridge on Belleview Road removed sheet pilings and an earthen dam that threatened to block drainage during rainfall from Hurricane Alex – but only after the parish got a court to order the action.

“It's something I'm not very proud of,” said Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso Jr. “It could have been avoidable if they had been a little sensitive to the parish and to the people.”

The parish-owned Milly Canal drains the Stassi Road, Patureau Lane and Crescent areas, including Crescent Elementary and Junior High School.

Iberville Emergency Preparedness Director Laurie Doiron said DOTD contractor Gerace Construction put the pilings and dam in place as they were building a temporary road around the Milly Canal Bridge. The bypass is to serve during work on the bridge and save motorists a long detour through White Castle, she said. 

The wrong size of pilings for the detour road were delivered to the site, and the company was leaving the barriers in place while it awaited on the right size, the director said.

Meanwhile, though, Hurricane Alex headed for landfall in northern New Mexico and an upper level disturbance created the possibility of rains of four to six inches in the area, Doiron said.

Ourso said he tried to talk to state Department of Transportation and Development officials about removing the barriers, but DOTD said only that they would “monitor the situation.”

“I pleaded with them, and they wouldn't make a decision,” the parish president said.

Ourso went to court last Wednesday seeking a restraining order and a preliminary injunction to have the drainage restored.

“The Iberville Parish Council is responsible for drainage and must take necessary action to prevent any flooding conditions that may be created by the artificial blockage of one of its major drainage canals...” the parish's lawsuit said.

District Judge Alvin Batiste Jr. signed the restraining order the same day.

Ourso said he met with DOTD officials at his office last Thursday morning, and reached an agreement for the state to keep the canal operational at a meeting in his office last Thursday. The state started work removing the barriers that day.

“It's all worked out,” he said.