His proposed $60 million detention in legal jeopardy, Lafayette demands more state money

The essential: The Lafayette Consolidated government is once again at the bottom of the state for the $60 million Bayou Vermilion flood control project currently halted by court order. LCG requested $23 million in the 2022 state budget, in addition to the $27 million granted last year.

Catch up, quickly. In an effort to do something – anything – about drainage, the Guillory administration authorized $150 million in drainage projects, mostly retention ponds, with little pushback or skepticism on the part of councils or the public. The State supports part of this investment.

LCG presented the BVFC project as benefiting several parishes in last year’s application to the state for $35 million to build the Homewood Drive detention project north of Milton. The filing claimed a regional impact that could benefit up to 150,000 people.

“This project will reduce the 100-year water surface elevation by 5 inches over 25 miles along the canal,” the spending request states. “The initial impact of this project will benefit multiple jurisdictions along Bayou Vermilion, including Lafayette, Vermilion, St. Maarten and St. Landry. [p]occurs.

At the time, LCG estimated that the initial phase of the BVFC project would cost $44.4 million, with local funding of $9.4 million to fill the gap. The state ended up awarding LCG $26.6 million on limited modeling of the benefits of the largest component of the project, the 37 acres of private farmland along Homewood Drive.

Homewood represents LCG’s second attempt to use the state’s quick-set law seizing private property for a drainage project declaring it a “public necessity” – and the second time around, the legal maneuver lands her in a legal battle over property rights. LCG lost the first trial and appealed; the Homewood case is ongoing.

Now LCG is asking for more money from the state for its detention efforts, seeking $23 million this budget cycle for the BVFC in a request submitted Oct. 27. written in a slightly edited account of the project that increases the potential profit by 10 inches.

Two studies commissioned by LCG contradict this claim. Modeling by UL Lafayette (read the study here) predicted that the Homewood project would reduce water levels on the Vermilion by less than 1 inch during a storm similar to those that inundated Lafayette in August 2016. Most Homewood’s benefits were localized, extending six miles along the Vermilion, not 25. The largest reduction was 5 inches, found in a much smaller 10-year rain event. Modeling by LCG’s engineering consulting firm, McBade Engineers & Consultants, supports UL’s findings on 10-year events and reports no figures for a 100-year event. (Read the McBade study here.)

The project is nevertheless ongoing. Two ponds were dug and a third was under construction when a district judge halted work on Homewood earlier this month. LCG has yet to conduct a cost-benefit analysis on its detention plan, opting instead to move forward at a breakneck pace.

Public records reviewed by The Current shed little light on how LCG is able to claim these benefits in its capital expenditure submissions, both approved by State Senator Page Cortez de Lafayette, and no additional studies have been produced since those submissions or in the battle legal action regarding land expropriated to support Homewood Ponds.

It’s unclear whether LCG should return any money to the state if the Bendel partnership, which owns the Homewood property, prevails in court.

Cortez did not return a text message asking if he would support delaying additional funding for state spending until the Homewood case plays out in court.

Low estimates did the heavy lifting. When pressed to file a deposition on the April 2021 submission to the state, LCG engineer Jessica Cornay acknowledged that the potential 150,000 people who could benefit were no more than ‘an estimate at the bottom of the napkin taken from “the approximate population of Lafayette which varied at the river.”

“The cart in front of the horse.” It’s a common refrain from lawyers representing the 30 or so members of the Bendel family who are fighting the expropriation of their land for Homewood’s detention ponds. For example, the lawyers pointed out that LCG does not have a comprehensive stormwater management plan and noted that residents of adjacent neighborhoods have asked councils to delay the March 2021 “public necessity” vote until until the engineering work can be completed. Mayor-President Josh Guillory said at the time that if final engineering was not completed within 90 days, he would be the author of a repeal of the ordinance.

“What we don’t know is if this project would actually work, so we don’t have the science or the engineering. We have preliminary science; we have preliminary engineering,” Guillory said during the city council meeting. “If we can’t have that [engineering] within 90 days, I will file a joint order revoking the necessity order. I think that would at least reassure everyone.

And after: The state’s engineering board will decide on Monday whether McBade’s project engineer Pam Granger can testify as an expert witness for LCG, a controversy that halted legal proceedings and work on the property in mid-March. . More than a year after councils declared the property a ‘public necessity’, Granger, whose contract is worth up to $3.6million, has yet to complete and approve its engineering plans . “LCG does not yet have plans for this project,” City-Parish Attorney Greg Logan’s office wrote in response to The Current’s March 18 request for construction plans, specifications and construction documents. construction on the Homewood project.

Guillory, rather than authorizing a repeal of the ordinance as he had promised, instead kept the project on a fast track, citing his commitment to a “new pace of government”. The court resumes on April 6.

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