News Article

'We are as prepared today for a flood as we ever been': What has been done since 2016 Ouachita Parish floods

Date:Aug 27, 2021
Published in:News Star

Five years ago in March, the Twin Cities were hit with a never before seen flood fall that caused excessive damage to properties throughout the parish.

Ouachita Parish Police Jury President Shane Smiley referred to the flooding in 2016 as "unprecedented."

"What I mean by that is never before have we had what they called a 'thousand year flood' here in Ouachita Parish," he said.

Since then, according to Smiley, the parish has completed a number of projects to prevent excessive flooding in the future, including the reconstruction of levees in the area, such as the one in the Town & Country area.

"Since 2016 even though it was unprecedented, we've really stepped up our game in terms of being more vigilant, focusing on being more prepared," Smiley said.

Smiley said constituents on the east side of the Ouachita River voted on a sales tax in 2018 to improve roads and drainage.

"With those funds, we've been able to address flood projects, with that being Raccoon Bayou and Town & Country drainage projects," he said.

Gov. John Bel Edwards founded the Louisiana Watershed Initiative in response to more recent floods in 2018. The initiative takes on a strategic and scientific approach to managing the watersheds and floodplains in the state and floodplains in the state and helps to target frequently flooded areas.

The City of Monroe received $3.1 million from the initiative to aid in the city's mitigation efforts. The funds helped with improvements on the Young's Bayou Retention Pond and the Georgia Street Pump station.

Ouachita Parish Police Juror Scotty Robinson said the parish is receiving $2.6 million of federal funds from the Louisiana Water Initiative to place portable pumps throughout the parish at "problem locations" that were identified during the 2016 flood.

"We will have pumps at the local level that we will be able to control," Ouachita Parish Homeland Security director Neal Brown said. "They will belong to us in our watershed region to deploy and use to get the water pumped out enough, if you ask me, ahead of time."

Brown said the flood in 2016 was a hard lesson on how to prevent excessive flooding in the future.

"In 2018, we actually had more water if the river was at a higher level than in 2016," Brown said. "Of course it didn't come as quick, but because of the lessons we learned in 2016, we were able to get our hands on pumps earlier and pump down different watersheds so we could have a capacity to hold more water. Without a doubt, it saved us in 2018 from a lot of flooding that we wouldn't had. It was just lessons that we learned in 2016."