In A Flash

Louisiana legislators approve final $54 million in sewer and water projects

By: - January 25, 2023 8:20 am
Water is held in an aerating pond at the Sewerage & Water Board plant in New Orleans.

Water is held in an aerating pond at the Sewerage & Water Board plant in New Orleans. (Greg LaRose/Louisiana Illuminator)

Louisiana lawmakers selected a final round of 19 projects Friday to receive the remaining $54.3 million allocated to local water and sewer system upgrades this year. The largest grants came out to $5 million each, and went to Lafayette, Iberia, Lafourche and Ascension parishes. 

In total, Edwards and legislators have devoted $750 million in federal COVID-19 relief funding to 220 water and sewer projects since 2020, but vast needs still remain. Several water and sewer systems that applied for funding didn’t end up with any money. 

Legislators deviated from the initial system used to pick earlier projects when selecting the final 19 recipients.

Previous projects were picked based on a scoring system that took into account the severity of the need and durability of the proposed fix. Water and sewer systems could also boost their chances of getting money if they found additional funding for the work or offered to combine their water or sewer system with others.

 

The last 19 projects, however, were selected by legislators personally after they reduced funding for two others that had received higher scores. They took $40 million out of a $45 million multi-city sewer consolidation project near the city of Amite in Tangipahoa Parish and cut $10 million out of a $15 million project in St. Tammany Parish.

Lawmakers complained that Louisiana’s Northshore region had received too much water and sewer money and that those two projects  were too expensive. They sought to spread the money around to other parts of the state.

Local governments who made personal appeals to legislators in the Capitol may have had an edge over other applicants. The mayors of the city of Donaldsonville and the town of Ball both testified about their sewer problems in person during a December hearing, and were awarded grants. 

Even after spending hundreds of millions of dollars on sewer and water infrastructure, House Rep. Jerome Zeringue, R-Houma, said last month that Louisiana’s water and sewer needs still total $4 billion. 

The Department of Health gave 130 of Louisiana’s 954 community water systems D or F ratings earlier this month. A failing grade indicates stage officials are worried about the viability of the water system over the long term.

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Julie O'Donoghue
Julie O'Donoghue

Julie O’Donoghue is a senior reporter for the Louisiana Illuminator and producer of the Louisiana Illuminator podcast. She’s received awards from the Virginia Press Association and Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press. Julie covered state government and politics for NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune for six years. She’s also covered government and politics in Missouri, Virginia and Washington D.C. Julie is a proud D.C. native and Washington Capitals hockey fan. She and her partner, Jed, live in Baton Rouge. She has two stepchildren, Quinn and Steven.

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