Expensive water system plan creates unison

Published 11:45 pm Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Individual water bills may not be that expensive in St. John Parish, but there is little doubt maintaining and upgrading the region’s water system will cost a significant amount of money.

St. John the Baptist Parish Council members unanimously approved a $209,648 contract, endorsed by parish administration, this month for conceptual engineering of an alternate water source.

No construction, just research.

Digital Engineering and Imaging is expected, among other things, to evaluate building a water intake pump station on the Mississippi River in LaPlace, modifications to the Lions Water Treatment Plant and the construction of a distribution pump station and transmission main from Lions Plant to LaPlace.

St. John leaders said the $200K study is the prelude to a decision on which way parish leaders will move on improvements to the LaPlace Water System.

Parish administration and council members have already met this month to develop a broader understanding of the conditions and challenges associated with all parish water systems.

Drainage has been a reoccurring concern among residents and leaders, highlighted recently at a late June parish council meeting that included Chief Administrative Officer Randy Vincent and Director of Emergency Preparedness Jobe’ Boucvalt fielding many complaints and questions about drainage issues and projects.

At the time, Vincent said multiple drainage projects had been completed and pumps installed since 2010, but Boucvalt adamantly told council members pump stations throughout the parish weren’t the final or even best fix.

“What we need is a levee,” he said.

High lake levels and other circumstantial situations sometimes mean the pumps cannot operate at full capacity, if even at all, he said.

Fast forward more than six weeks and it seems the ire from that meeting has subsided, with a coordinated plan of attack agreed to unanimously between St. John the Baptist Parish Council members and the administration of Parish President Natalie Robottom.

With finger pointing seemingly put behind them, now it’s time for action — work that can only continue after a $200,000 water system study is complete.