Complaints flood in over Alligator Bayou plan

Deidre Cruse

Alligator Bayou is at the center of controversy.

Frank Bonifay and Jim Ragland, who have owned the swamp area since 1993, are at odds with the plans of officials from neighboring parishes Ascension and Iberville.

The water level is high and threatens flooding of neighboring residences.

Iberville Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso Jr. said Friday he plans to open the flood control structure at Alligator Bayou once flood waters recede, despite an outcry from environmentalists and from an Ascension Parish boat tour operator.

Ourso said he recognized that someone needs to make a more extensive study of the environmental issues surrounding the flood control structure, but that “I should be able to protect the people of Iberville, and not subsidize some boat tour.”

Ourso wrote Ascension Parish President Tommy Martinez on Tuesday asking him to open the floodgates to allow for a natural flow of water through the area.

“The Alligator Bayou Floodgate structure was constructed in the early 1950s to act as a ‘flood control’ structure, and not as a mechanism to artificially maintain a water level in any natural body of water,” Ourso wrote. “During times of extraordinary rainfall and tropical storms/hurricanes, it will be necessary to modify the operations of the Alligator Bayou Floodgate to protect the life and property of residents of Iberville and Ascension parishes. The floodgate structure cannot be operated in a manner that will artificially elevate the level of water and thus injure the property of adjoining landowners in the area. I trust that this plan to keep the Alligator Bayou Floodgate structure open will be effective immediately, and that the floodgate will be closed when it is essential to protect the life and property of our residents.”

Under a long-standing agreement, Ascension Parish operates the flood control structure, even though it is located in Iberville Parish, according to Iberville Chief Administrative Officer Edward A. “Lucky” Songy Jr.

The last official word on the floodgate’s operation was a 1957 resolution from the Ascension Parish Police Jury asking the Iberville Parish Police Jury to keep the floodgate open except during times of high water to protect timberlands in the neighboring parish, Songy said.

Ourso said he would send the Iberville Department of Public Works to open the structure if the his request caused any problems for Martinez.