FEMA dollars rolling in for levee board


While the St. Mary Parish Levee District has not had to use a $750,000 loan from the parish government, St. Mary Parish Chief Administrative Officer Henry “Bo” LaGrange said this morning that even if it would have had to borrow the money, it would have needed approval of the state Bond Commission to do so.

The Parish Council agreed to loan the levee district $750,000 during its Sept. 28 meeting, and the levee district approved a resolution to accept the funds a day later. LaGrange said when the parish council’s legal representative, Vincent Borne, and levee district counsel Gerard Bourgeois were writing up the agreement, they learned that, because the levee district would be incurring debt by taking on the loan, they had to receive state Bond Commission approval.

Fortunately, the levee district did not have to rely on the funds, meant to tide it over until its Federal Emergency Management Agency reimbursements from flood fighting expenditures were received, because the FEMA funds began coming in.

St. Mary Parish Levee District President Bill Hidalgo said Thursday that the monies are still coming in from flood fighting measures the parish levee district took before and after the near record levels the Atchafalaya River reached during this spring’s flood fight.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has agreed to reimburse the parish for 75 percent of these flood-fighting expenditures, which are expected to increase to more than $10.5 million once the last project worksheet is complete and any revisions are made. Any revisions are eligible for the 75 percent reimbursement, too.

As of Friday afternoon, FEMA has approved reimbursement of 75 percent of $8.7 million of expenditures by the levee district.

Of that total, the levee district has received about $3.3 million in reimbursements as of Friday, and another $4.5 million is expected, Levee District Executive Director Hilary Thibodeaux said.

Earlier this year, the parish levee board received $2.5 million from the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority — 75 percent of which must be paid back — and another $2.5 million in loans they bonded. The monies were used to help with flood-fighting expenditures as well as future expenditures.

While the levee district was concerned early about finances and had considered bonding more money — as well as borrowing the previously mentioned monies from the parish to tide them over until their reimbursements came in — Thibodeaux said since the levee district told the federal government its concerns, they have worked to process the worksheets and get reimbursements to the levee district.

“This thing’s wrapping up very quickly,” Thibodeaux said of the post-flood reimbursement work, adding that by the end of this week, the district should have a “good handle” on what the final cost of the floodfighting work will be.

Thibodeaux said the district would have discussions soon with other stakeholders who benefited from the protection about assisting the levee district in covering the remaining 25 percent cost share.

“We’ll probably be knocking on some doors and talking,” he said.

In other matters, at a Friday afternoon meeting, the levee district board passed a resolution to support applications for capital outlay funding for several projects.

Thibodeaux said he realized the district had not submitted any projects for funding this year, and he narrowed his focus to three prospective projects for which to seek funds.

The projects have already received endorsements from state legislators.

Approved in the resolution were a West St. Mary levee system, a Bayou Teche flood control structure and the Bayou Chene backwater flood control structure.

Thibodeaux also reported to the board that cleaning of the barge sunk in Bayou Chene to prevent backwater flooding earlier this year is almost complete.

No major damage was uncovered by the cleaning process at Coral Marine, though McDermott has asked for repair of a pipe that is leaking.

Board President Bill Hidalgo said the pipe may have been corroded before the barge was placed in the Chene, and the cleaning process may have aggravated the corrosion.

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