Ahead of hurricane season, Ascension Parish sandbag plans might change

Michael Tortorich
Gonzales Weekly Citizen
In a file photo from July 12, 2019, Ashley Boudreaux ties sandbags in Baton Rouge.

After last year's impact of Hurricane Ida, Ascension Parish officials are looking ahead to the upcoming storm season and the familiar duty of filling sandbags.

During the last East Ascension Drainage Board meeting, members discussed the procedure of preparing for a hurricane - which includes parish employees putting in the work of filling bags to protect citizens' homes from possible flood waters.

In the past, parish government announced various locations throughout Ascension Parish for sandbags. For years, these sandbag stations have included parish employees working to fill thousands of bags weeks before the storm season officially begins June 1. It ends Nov. 30, after spanning Louisiana's hot and humid summers. 

Ascension Parish President Clint Cointment said the thousands of bags cost some $800,000 yearly. It also presents an opportunity cost in that it takes parish workers away from their normal duties.

The parish could turn to a private company to contract the work, and free up employees to make sure canals and ditches are clear ahead of potential floods.

Ron Savoy, parish public works director, gave a presentation during the drainage board meeting, explaining the challenge of sandbags.

Savoy said he estimates each bag costs about $5 with in-house labor. The sandbags are then stacked in sea cans. 

"Even though we do a great job, it's very challenging to keep this sustained and keep this service going," Savoy said.

Iberville Parish has the same setup as Ascension Parish, and has experienced the same issues, he added.

Savoy presented photos from a company that sells pre-filled sandbags that can be moved in larger bags.

Cointment said some companies have expressed an interest in bidding on the work.

"This is a critical item here. This is one that we desperately need to get to and get to soon because hurricane season and springtime showers are coming. We need to get on the ball with this," Cointment said.

The East Ascension Drainage Board is expected to take up the matter again during its next meeting, which is set for March 7.