Covington Leaders Ask For Amended Legislation On River Cleaning
COVINGTON, LA – Covington's mayor and three City Council members are asking lawmakers to amend legislation to allow de-snagging of the Tchefuncte, Bogue Falaya and Abita Rivers in current legislation that appears to allow dredging.
Senate Bill 132 (SB132) by Sen. Bodi White (R-Baton Rouge) is designed to allow – but not mandate – dredging and de-snagging of certain rivers in an effort to alleviate flood risks. The bill has faced opposition from environmentalists concerned that the law would allow development along scenic waterways, but Covington leaders ask that it be amended only to allow de-snagging and the removal of debris.
"Covington sustained severe flooding only 14 months ago, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage, lost commerce and insurance costs," said Mayor Mike Cooper. "Much of the cause of that flooding is traceable directly to clogged waterways that are currently untouchable due to 'Scenic Rivers' designation. We need to have the flexibility to do that work or ensure it is done by state or federal authorities."
"We're not interested in seeing these areas developed," said City Councilman At-Large Patrick McMath. "On the contrary, they need to remain scenic – both literally and in the legal sense. But we also don't need to 'study' the issue any more. We need only 'study' the peril to our constituents and businesses in and around Covington, and we saw that evidence in living color last year."
"If the Legislature can amend Sen. White's bill, we may have the ability to remove debris from the same waterways that overflowed their banks and devastated our community last year," said District C Councilman Mark Wright. "If it dies this year and further study is warranted, the soonest we could pass a new law allowing de-snagging of our Scenic Rivers would be a year from now – which wouldn't guarantee quick work."
"Covington could face another catastrophic flood event at any time, whether from tropical weather this summer or a major rain event like we had last year," said District E Councilman Rick Smith. "Authorizing parish and municipal authorities to simply do what must be done would be a great and easy step."
"This is a tremendous opportunity for government to get out of the way of common-sense solutions," McMath said. "We don't need a study to tell us that a discarded refrigerator on a river bottom impedes the flow of a river."
"Environmental concerns are not to be discounted, dismissed or overlooked," Cooper said. "We need to minimize the chances of flooding without compromising the Scenic River designation and protections. We want the ability to de-snag and remove debris, but not dredge these rivers. The St. Tammany delegation in Baton Rouge does a good job of looking out for our needs, and this is another opportunity for them to quickly and easily amend legislation to benefit Covington and surrounding areas."