La. Supreme Court: AquaDams can stay

Staff Report

AquaDams will remain part of the emergency flood control procedure for Iberville Parish, despite vehement opposition from East Baton Rouge Parish.

The Louisiana Supreme Court ruled late Friday to allow the blockades to remain in place to stop flooding in the tributaries along the Iberville-Ascension boundaries.

“Justice has prevailed … finally,” Iberville Parish President Mitchell Ourso said. “We finally got someone working on our side now.”

Ourso said he will continue to put his parish first, although Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome took the matter to court last week.

EBR Judge William Morvant ruled in favor of Broome last week and ordered the removal of the AquaDams that went up last week after more than 13 inches of rain brought flooding to Iberville and surrounding parishes.

Ourso refused, and he said that a ruling from a judge in the 19th Judicial District Court could not apply to Iberville, which is domiciled in the 18th JDC jurisdiction.

“This isn’t even his jurisdiction,” he said.

Iberville Parish residents should not become the scapegoat for East Baton Rouge’s lack of diligence on flood protection issues, he said.

“The audacity for her to expect me to take down these things to let water roll over to my already flooded residents of Bayou Paul …  I can’t even fathom that,” he said. “So, they’re saying people have to pay for their negligence? That’s not going to happen.”

East Baton Rouge officials have argued that the AquaDams would send backwater from Bayou Manchac and Spanish Lake into the direction of EBR.

Ourso said he found out about the judge’s ruling during a meeting with Gov. John Bel Edwards, who heard the grievances from Ourso, Broome and Ascension Parish President Clint Cointment.

“I felt like I got Pearl-Harbored,” he said.

Ourso said in a television report that Gov. Edwards even seemed surprised by the ruling.

The latest court battle marked the second in just under two years. Ourso and Broome went to court over the use of the dams during Hurricane Barry in June 2019.

In that hearing, an East Baton Rouge judge ruled in favor of Broome’s request.

An elevation at least two-feet high for Bayou Paul Road could be an option for flood control in that area and possibly eliminated the need for AquaDams, to some extent, Ourso said.

“Their elevation is higher than the top of Bayou Paul Road, and she feels no pain with the fact that the water and levee come out over here,” he said. “But she wants them to take them down, so it won’t affect her residents in south Baton Rouge.”

Ourso said he hasn’t yet brought the issue to the area’s congressional delegation.

“I sometimes wonder what side they’re on,” he said. “If I’d put my faith in anyone, it would be Garret Graves.

“I hope Gov. Edwards puts the clamps on (Broome), and then if she wants this or that, let the governor pay for it, but this will go on forever,” Ourso said. “We’ve been left in the rain on this.”

Ourso said he can only move forward on the issue.

“First of all, I’ve got to recover from this and then see where it will go. I don’t have a reverse in my transmission on this … I’m not built that way,” he said. “Nobody will ever be able to say I abandoned my people on this – that’s not going to happen.

“East Baton Rouge needs to stay in its lane,” Ourso said. “All Broome does is cry when it doesn’t go her way.

“As for me, I’m out here working the rest of people, wearing overalls like Junior Samples,’ he said. “But I’m doing it because I care about my people.”