LAFAYETTE, La. — The Lafayette City Council held an emergency meeting on Thursday where it approved an ordinance moving more than $20 million dollars into the Public Works Department for drainage and maintenance projects after severe weather caused widespread flooding across the city.
The council unanimously approved an emergency ordinance declaring a public emergency in regard for the need for drainage caused by this week's severe weather that moved $15,754,000 from the city's general fund and $4,296,000 from the capital improvement fund into the Public Works Department for emergency drainage measures. The funds total $20,050,00.
The funding will go toward projects including spot dredging the Vermilion River in areas identified as "hot spots" such as Ill Des Cannes, Coulee Mine and Bayou Tortue near the Lafayette Airport.
According to Mayor-President Josh Guillory, the city does not have permission to dredge the full Vermilion River, it can dredge the river in certain areas inside the city limits. He said that surveys of the river have already been completed, and that Fenstermaker has also completed sonar scans of the bottom of the river that show buildup of material at Ill Des Cannes and Coulee Mine.
Guillory said that the spot dredging would not pose a threat to neighboring parishes such as Vermilion Parish south of Lafayette Parish, who have stated their concern that any dredging of the Vermilion River could increase the amount of water it would receive during a flood event.
"We're bringing it back to its natural state," said Guillory. "It's what God gave us and it's what man messed up."
The funds will also update the city's fleet of flusher trucks that work on underground draining. One truck will be retired and a brand new truck will be added for a total of five flusher trucks.
The emergency declaration from the city council will also expedite the usual process for the maintenance and drainage projects and cut down the time to get in equipment such as the flusher trucks.
"We all have been looking at a maintenance project such as spot dredging," said Public Works Director Chad Nepveaux. "The surveys are done and we have information that says we know where we need to be. So, we quantify that and getting moving on this is probably the highest priority project that we think will certainly serve a lot of people in the city."
Nepveaux said that after looking at "heat maps" when they surveyed the bottom of the Vermilion River, they saw certain materials that could be removed.
Nepveaux says that Coulee Mine is the worst area along the Vermilion River with shallow water that makes in difficult to navigate by vessel.
Nepveaux called this project Phase 1 and said that the Public Works Department would do as much as they can with the funding and move as quickly as possible with the maintenance projects.
He said he estimates the process to begin within the next 30-45 days, if not sooner.
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