Highlights from the Parish President’s Report of the St. Martin Parish Council Regular Meeting of August 7, 2018

HENDERSON LAKE DRAWDOWN

The Henderson Lake Drawdown commenced last Wednesday morning, August 1, 2018.  Prior to the drawdown, I had several meetings with our Public Works supervisors, select members of their crew, Heath Babineaux, Nanette Theriot, and Thayer Jones.  Moreover, I was in constant contact with Brac Salyers, a Biologist Manager with the La. Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.  At these meetings, we devised our own “operational plan” defining in advance everyone’s role.  We were, and have been, in contact with Roy Provost of Huval and Associates relative to the control structure.  Of pertinence was our review and discussions of the 16 conditions of the permit/approval of the United States Army Corps of Engineers.  The drawdown is projected to last 7-10 days according to Mr. Salyers.

The drawdown calls for the closely monitoring of the gauge at Lake Pelba at I-10 near Henderson.  Further, the water level ideally should be lowered by 2-4 inches per day until the gauge reflects a level of NO LOWER than 6 feet.  The levels are impacted by several factors including the width to which the control gates at the structure are opened, rainfall, and overall flow rate.

Internally, Thayer and Nanette were instructed to check the gauge reading at Lake Pelba every morning and report same to me.  For the first day, we found the level was being reduced outside the maximum 4 inch range.  Hence, the gates were closed two feet after conferring with Roy Provost of Huval and Associates and Mr. Salyers.  This produced the intended consequences.  However, Saturday morning, the flowrate had increased slightly.  Nonetheless, we did not disturb the gates since heavy rains had been predicted.  This morning, Sunday, the flowrate still remained high.  Although I did not have any contact information for Mr. Salyers, I nonetheless instructed that the gates be closed by 1 to 1.5 feet.  Afterwards, Mr. Salyers e-mailed me and agreed with my actions, except that he recommended the closure even more.  We complied with his suggestions, and the gates were closed to 2.5 feet.

Similarly, we posted various signs informing the public of the drawdown.  Likewise, there was press coverage of the opening of the control structure, and we have daily posted information on the Parish’s social media outlets.

We are keeping a diary of all of the events for future reference.  This year, we were sort on our own.  Moreover, we had no historical data upon which to rely relative to water levels, width of gate opening, and the like.  OUR PUBLIC WORKS DEPARTMENT ARE DESERVING OF MANY KUDOS AS ARE MY STAFF.  THIS PROJECT MERITED THEIR UTMOST, PROFESSIONAL ATTENTION.  I would like to recognize in particular Kelvin “Snap” Laviolette and Shawn Belaire.

I remind you that the purpose of the drawdown is to control severe problems with vegetation, especially Hydrilla, Water Hyacinth, and Giant Salvinia.  These growths rob the water of valuable, essential nutrients which support fisheries.  Additionally, the aforementioned vegetation impedes navigation.  Furthermore, a successful drawdown allows for the bed of the lake to harden, thus aiding in the reproduction of fisheries.

COUNCIL ON AGING

The Council on Aging continues to lament about inadequate funding.  Many areas of our Parish cannot be properly serviced by COA because of a lack of resources.  Indeed, last Tuesday in the southern most part of the Parish, I met with a group of our citizens and their most vocal and passionate concerns addressed the lack of COA services.  I have taken the initiative to research this matter and note that the essential funding for the St. Martin COA is:  $103K from the Governor’s Office of Elderly Affairs; $117K from the Cajun Area on Aging (Federal); $32K from St. Martin Parish Government; $10K from the City of Breaux Bridge; and, approximately $1.5K from the Village of Parks.  Additionally, the Parish provides the Syndae Mae Durand building for the COA and is the recipient of a federal transportation grant.

I have met with Ms. Shanise Lewis and agreed to assist her in making formal requests for more funding for the COA.  I have agreed to meet with her and Karen Ryder of the Governor’s Office and with Shannon Broussard of the Cajun Area on Aging.  One of the appointments has already been made, and we are waiting for word on the other.  Unfortunately, funding for all types of services is limited under the current economic landscape.

DISREPAIR OF LA. HIGHWAY 352/HENDERSON LEVEE ROAD

On July 31, 2018, I met with a number of officials regarding the major issues presented by the condition of the Henderson Levee Road.  Present were Senator Fred Mills, Representative Mike Huval, Mayor Sherbin Collette, Bill Oliver and Chris Knotts of DOTD, representatives from the Atchafalaya Basin Levee District, several business owners in the area, and Darryl Pontiff with the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA).  The attendees were informed that poor conditions of the road north of Pat’s Restaurant (that portion of the road being a Parish road) had been successfully repaired by the Parish.  Nonetheless, Mr. Oliver very cogently explained the unique problems with the portion of the road in question, and he explained the funding and jurisdictional issues at play.  The meeting was much more that a “finger pointing” affair and ended with commitments by: CPRA that funding alternatives would be explored for both short-term and long-term repairs; the Levee District that it would seek expanded servitudes needed for repairs; and DOTD that it would develop planning and design models and prepare cost estimates.  Meanwhile, SMEDA will be instructed to prepare an economic impact study to demonstrate the value of a functional road.  We will have a follow-up meeting in approximately ninety (90) days.  The benefit of this conference was that all of the stakeholders were at the table and worked cooperatively.

CYPRESS ISLAND/JOE DAIGRE DRAINAGE SYSTEM PROJECT

PENSCO, the engineers for this project, have advised me that the survey of the project has been completed and final plans up to Highway 96 are complete.  The plans from Highway 96 to Leed Champagne Road at the end of the project are 35% complete.  As to the former phase, the plans have been submitted to the Army Corps of Engineers for vetting.  This project calls for the cleaning and enlarging of the Joe Daigre Canal and related channels, directing drainage to the Bayou Teche south of the Keystone Locks.

CYPRESS BAYOU/COULEE LASALLE DRAINAGE PROJECT

The surveys have been completed according to our engineers, Sellers & Associates.  The Wetland Delineation has been completed by C.L. Jack Stelly.  GOHSEP received on May 1, 2018, the HMGP application, and subsequent information was provided to GOHSEP.  Also, the HMGP Application has been provided to FEMA for review.  The project schedule is for all permits to be issued in July of next year, with bidding to be completed by September, 2019.  Construction is scheduled for that same time frame.

NIMS TRAINING

On August 14, 2018, myself, several members of the administrative staff, and public works personnel will participate in a training session in a Federal program known as the National Incident Management System (NIMS). We will receive training and certification relative to responding to emergencies in connection with natural disasters.  This training is being conducted through our Office of Emergency Preparedness via Lt.-Col. Terry Guidry and/or Stacey Eddy Blanchard.  As I previously observed, FEMA is more apt to reimburse local governmental units for expenses associated with emergency details (overtime, etc.) when such costs are incurred by NIMS-certified personnel. Only two Parish Government employees are NIMS trained:  Council Clerk, Laci Laperouse, and Fabian Tucker, Director of Administration.  I have previously mandated that ALL persons associated with the Parish receive the NIMS certification inclusive of our public works employees, supervisors, and myself.  The training will be on-line and conducted under the auspices of our own OEP.  Once again, I feel constrained to note that the training will pay dividends in the future and exemplifies the steps we are taking to guide our staff to higher levels of proficiency and efficiency.

CECILIA COMMUNITY CENTER

I have met with Lynn Guidry, the architect for the subject project, and received from him preliminary drawings.  These are conceptual only and do not reflect any final decisions.  Prior to the Council meeting, I will be meeting with the architects for the Paul Angelle Park so that we can be assured that both projects compliment each other.  We are moving quickly on finalizing the concepts for the community center

GPS MONITORING

Although I do not at this time have any hard numbers/statistics, I can attest that the use of Parish vehicles has subsided substantially.  Moreover, complaints from the general public about the use of public vehicles in almost nonexistent.  There remains a couple of areas disclosed by the GPS system which has attracted my attention and will be addressed.  Thus far, however, I can see the system already paying dividends.