GONZALES – An engineer hired by Ascension Parish government as a consultant said there is merit to a discussion of building on stilts instead of a slab in the wake of the August flood of 2016 that inundated many homes on the east bank of parish including parts of St. Amant, Galvez, Lake, Acy, Sorrento, Prairieville, Dutchtown and Gonzales when the Amite River at Port Vincent rose to 17 feet from backwater following a historic rain event.
“Are we better off having homes on stilts instead of fill,” asked Michael Songy of CSRS stating that homes were built for years like that until everybody wanted a slab. Songy said the amount of fill can reach between two and four feet but confirmed rules must be followed according to the parish ordinance.
That ordinance requires one foot above with a few exceptions, according to Songy, who said the Federal Emergency Management Agency will not raise flood maps. The fill mitigation ordinance has been in effect for several years where you can haul into a flood-plain if you ensure the same amount of storage space exists and Songy confirmed it is enforced and will continue to be.
The workshop for Ascension Parish Council members on the flood also included the description of the weather event that caused it by Louisiana State Climatologist Dr. Barry Keim. Keim said the event with no name was a “very bid deal” and was caused by high pressure off the coast of Florida that created continuous rainfall for days with record amount of inches.
Flooding in Ascension Parish was caused not so much by rainfall but flow from the north, according to Songy who said river gage data is being used to verify the benchmark flood. The area is not a flat stagnant plain and inundation occurred in different places.
Inundation is a factor in the ordinance, according to Songy, and some places will have to two-feet above the 100-year flood-plain Data was validated and depth of flooding was measured on houses and structures and checked with debris pickup.
“Where you where had a lot more to do with how you were affected,” Songy said stating what was learned is that the delta follows a “slope of the river” with areas closest to the river and tributaries experienced higher depths according to flood-plain maps compared to other places that flooded.
Several councilman expressed concern. Councilman Todd Lambert said flood plains are filled up with new homes and asked if changes are needed for how people build in certain areas.
Councilman Benny Johnson said control is needed for what is developed because displaced water will seek the lowest point and with the elevation of property, drainage needs to be improved to get it out quicker.
“Everybody is trying to do something to stay out of the water right now but you have to look at what you are doing to your neighbors,” Councilman Randy Clouatre said.