Stormwater Plan Update
BATON ROUGE - On Wednesday, the City of Baton Rouge will begin the process of resubmitting stormwater documents to the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality.
The resubmission comes after the city’s most recent request for an extension on LDEQ’s request for additional information set to expire on Jan. 17. According to documents from LDEQ, extended deadlines have been due to previous submissions being "data deficient," according to the parish.
"A lot of people are saying why'd it take so long, but part of the issue was just collecting the data that was necessary, we did a lot of modelling over the entire East Baton Rouge Parish, of our major waterways, which are about twelve watershed areas that we have." said Fred Raiford, Director of City Drainage.
The path to improvement started with evaluating a new set of flood maps sourced through city contractors. City official Fred Raiford says the data indications show much worse conditions than the previous use of FEMA’s outdated 2008 flood map.
That same year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued an administrative order to the city for violating a Clean Water Act, it was all based off on violations identified in the city’s 2007 municipal storm sewer system (MS4) audit.
As stated by the agency, these were the city’s failures:
A) Failure to summarize the number and nature of inspections and enforcement actions.
B) Failure to develop and implement Measurable Goals for the effectiveness and performance of the Best Management Practices applied to the implementation of each stormwater management program, in reducing pollutants in stormwater that may discharge into the MS4.
C) Failure to update Stormwater Management Plans to reflect the current operation and status of each implemented stormwater management program.
Back in September, the city sent a notice about the need for additional information required in its application to renew storm water utility. Part of that proposed drainage plan stirred concerns with a newly introduced bill that would include money coming out of taxpayers' pockets, but the city couldn’t provide adequate details on what that money would be used for.
Part of the reason, the city said, was due to a non-disclosure agreement with federal agencies. Congressman Garrett Graves shut that down after discovering it didn’t exist.
Mayor Broome placed fault on those in charge of the plans.
After a failed proposal and issues with those running it, major changes are in the works in the months to follow. How fast it will get done and how much progress will follow is still in question.
The city’s recent efforts could point to more improvements and less flood damage.
This week, Mayor Sharon Weston Broome appointed Vincent Latino as Chief administrative officer. Much of his efforts will be geared toward stormwater utility and water control system compliances. The city also has plans to install two new litter-catching devices near Corporation Canal, with one going into LSU’s North Gate neighborhood and another on East State Street to catch litter before it enters the waterway, BUT THAT'S NOT ALL.
"Part of it is a Capital Improvements Program, because part of the Storm water Master Plan was to look at projects that could help find ways to improve and reduce flood risk... We have probably over 7O-80 projects that are in the Capital Improvements Plan." says Raiford.
From newly driven flood data to drainage cleaning systems and now, a new advisory, residents are anxiously anticipating what could come next. Part of it, is figuring out what will happen with development in flood plain districts.
"Everybody will have to go through the permitting process, there will be modelling that will have to take place, from a development standpoint, an engineer would have to submit a plan on where he's looking at, what the plans would look like, what the elevations of what they want to build to, we would run this through the model, if there's changes that need to be made, that engineer would have to address that, or it doesn't get approved."
The documents expected for submission include certain measures of water levels and pollutants in them. The latest deadline has been set for the full plan proposal on September 15th of 2023.
With lots in the works, still there are issues the city needs to work out, to avoid turmoil its seen with Storm water management in the past.
"The Mayor's office was asked to put together another stakeholder coalition, to look at that, get more people involved, get some of the council members involved, because in reality, we have problems keeping up with their system... and we don't have the man power and in some cases, we don't have enough money to actually do what needs to be done." Raiford explained
The Department of Environmental Services stated in a letter sent to the city on Jan. 12 that they are expected to hit monthly submissions of storm water plan details, leading to the new fully compliant SWMP. It says the submission must be complete by the date, with no further requests for extensions.