LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) — A feud over spoil banks, levees of dirt and debris formed on either side of a river is reaching new heights and creating a major controversy between two Acadiana parishes.
Lafayette Consolidated Government removed spoil banks along the Vermilion River last week.
Those spoils banks were keeping areas in St. Martin Parish from flooding, parish leaders say.
St. Martin Parish Government officials and community members are now angry, as they say LCG removed the spoil banks without any warning and without permits.
Lafayette Mayor President Josh Guillory says LCG removed the spoil banks to help flash flooding and drainage. He says it will benefit the entire region.
“Anytime we can be good neighbors and we can help out folks and help anybody in the region and defnitely not hurt anybody, we’re going to do that,” Guillory said.
St. Martin Parish President Chester Cedars said, however, it will not help their region and called it “an act of misconduct.”
“I do not need Lafayette Parish Government telling St. Martin Parish what’s best for us. That’s our job,” Cedars said.
When asked if the project would harm residents of St. Martin Parish, Guillory said, “We surely wouldn’t bless off on a project that would hurt anybody, but the science is clear. The engineering is clear.”
“I’m just so happy we’re able to help both Lafayette Parish and St. Martin Parish,” Guillory added.
Cedars says he believes, however, more research on how it would impact their region should have been done before LCG moved forward with the project.
“This might be a risk-free endeavor for Lafayette Parish, but it is not a risk-free endeavor for St. Martin Parish,” Cedars said.
He says removing the spoil banks makes flooding much more likely for their residents.
St. Martin Parish residents who live near the area where the spoil bank once stood agree this may not benefit them.
“You had a 12 feet levee, and you’re reducing it to 6 feet. Do I look like an idiot?” Yvonne Romero said.
Residents and parish leaders say they’re now also concerned over the legality of removing them.
“Why would you do that? Why would you do that to your neighbors? Why? When you did not have a permit,” Romero added.
“There’s a process to this, and the process was definitely not followed,” resident Chad Boyer said.
Cedars said LCG removed the spoil banks without the appropriate regulatory licenses or permits required by law.
Guillory, says, however, a permit was not necessary.
“The Army Corps of Engineers did not require a permit for this,” Guillory told News Ten.
As the spoil banks are already gone, Cedars says they’re trying to fix this. They’re speaking with regulatory agencies about imposing penalties on LCG if they find they did violate the law.
“I’m not frustrated as much as I’m disappointed. I’m not frustrated as much as I’m appalled,” Cedars said.
After St. Martin Parish government held a special meeting Tuesday, Guillory said it’s come to his attention that the St. Martin Parish Council has given authorization to take legal action.
His statement reads, “In order to successfully sue for damages in a plaintiff’s case, you must show that there was harm created. I trust the significant engineering that has gone into this project. The current modeling of the spoil bank removal project shows that there is no threat of harm to St. Martin Parish.”
“I trust that my fellow elected officials in St. Martin Parish want for their constituents the same thing that I want for mine, which is to do all we can to protect life and property. I also trust in the science and all of the engineers who have spent years analyzing the benefits of restoring the natural hydraulic flow in this area. I look forward to continuing our work with all of our neighbors, including St. Martin Parish, to combat flooding on a regional scale. This is a great day for our region,” Guillory added.