St. James considers creating task force to study flood issues

The St. James Parish Council will consider the formation of a parishwide flood control committee at its next meeting in light of heavy rainfall that waterlogged the parish earlier this spring and the potential threat of future hurricanes.

Councilman Jason Amato said he hoped to form a task force with members from the east bank and the west bank, noting the problem of flooding is “beyond drainage.”

Although proper drainage is something the parish government is trying to address, preventing future flooding includes, in part, reclaiming land and providing for protection through the construction of ditches, pumps and levees, Amato said.

The parish has faced flooding problems for years.

It was inundated with 14.21 inches of rainfall over 48 hours beginning May 28 that flooded more than 100 homes in the parish, officials said.

Parish President Timmy Roussel said the committee should consider the kind of backwater flooding that occurred in August 2012 after Hurricane Isaac blew through. It should also note where the parish’s vulnerable areas are located, he said.

Councilman Terry McCreary suggested looking at data the parish has available, including the parish government’s Geographic Information Systems project that has identified areas in the parish prone to flooding.

McCreary stressed focusing on known drainage problems while also working on flood control.

Any serious attempts to control future flooding has been hampered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ recommendation of Alternative D, a 100-year storm levee protection system that provides no protection for St. James Parish, officials said.

“We’re looking for solutions now and actions now,” McCreary said.

Amato said he would work on the committee idea and possibly place it on the agenda for the Parish Council’s Aug. 20 meeting in Vacherie.

In other business, the Parish Council unanimously adopted an ordinance setting the 2014 property tax rate at 37.30 mills that should bring in nearly $16.8 million, said parish Finance Director Chantal Waguespack.