Calcasieu Parish’s Galan touts progress with drainage projects

Published 4:35 pm Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Two years ago, the focus in Southwest Louisiana was on recovery after the one-two punch of Hurricanes Laura and Delta in 2020. Now that the region is on the “down slope of recovery,” quality of life and infrastructure improvements are again at the forefront.

“We want to make sure our residents are happy, stay here, want to stay here and the younger generations want to stay here, as well,” Alberto Galan, Calcasieu Parish Police Jury’s assistant to the administrator, told members of Kiwanis Club of Lake Charles this week. “With that, the things that you see every day, the bread and butter of government that you want to see government invest in is infrastructure.”

Galan said a “significant amount of dollars” have been allocated the past several years on water, drainage, sewers and roads.

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“A lot of COVID recovery dollars given to local municipalities and parishes came from the American Rescue Plan and the parish received about $40 million,” Galan said. “Police jurors met and they decided to allocate 100 percent of that to water, sewer and drainage projects across the parish.”

He said the parish has completed a $200 million drainage lateral debris removal cleanup of area bayous, canals and creeks. He said the local gravity drainage districts agreed to pay 50 percent of the local match for the three-year project — which was 10 percent — and the parish is hopeful it will recover between 80-90 percent of that $5 million spent from the Federal Emergency Management Administration.

“It took a significant amount of time and a significant amount of resources,” he said. “It’s safe to say that our drainage system before Laura looked a whole lot different than it looks now. I wouldn’t say it’s all back to how it looked when it was installed, but it’s pretty close. Now we just have to ensure that our drainage districts and municipalities and us all work together to ensure the maintenance is invested in and that it is a focus We still see some roads flood during these heavy rainfall events, but we haven’t had any reports of houses flooding like pre-Laura. That’s an indication that it’s working.”

Another drainage investment is the $6 million detention pond — the first in Calcasieu Parish — that was built behind Crying Eagle Brewery off of McNeese Street. A detention pond is a large, constructed depression in an urban landscape that receives and stores the stormwater runoff from large drainage areas. Detention basins usually hold a permanent pond of water. Galan said the area will serve as a recreation point for residents with a walking track and landscaping around it. The final touches, including lighting, are being added now.

Galan said the Police Jury has earmarked $12.8 million for drainage maintenance in this year’s budget.

“Not trying to take away from our road system — which we’ve upgraded and now all roads outside of the city limits are paved — but now we able to shift some of that money to maintenance, some capital and transportation projects,” he said.

Galan said many don’t realize the Police Jury is responsible for providing services, resources or facilities for certain entities in the parish — including the sheriff, coroner, district attorney, clerk of courts, tax assessor and the registrar of voters offices as well as 14th Judicial District Court.

He said money “socked away for 25 years” paid for the newly completed Office of Juvenile Justice on East Prien Lake Road, which is serving as a model for others across the state, and for an upcoming build for a new $20 million Animal Services facility on Swift Plant Road.

“This was done without additional taxes being required,” he said.

Another project on the horizon is the replacement of the 14th Judicial District Court and Family Court facility.

“That’s been a long time coming,” he said. “That building needs a lot of maintenance and it’s just eating money away. The idea right now is to build a new court that will be a focal point of downtown Lake Charles.”

The multi-floor facility will be located at the site of the parking garage attached to the Magnolia Building.