Wallis Watkins is a Baton Rouge native. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Philosophy from Louisiana State University in 2013. Soon after, she joined WRKF as an intern and is now reporting on politics for Capitol Access and science and health for Louisiana's Lab.
Over the past four years, access to hospitals and emergency rooms has dwindled in north Baton Rouge, forcing residents there to travel farther for health care. As of Wednesday, they have a new — and closer — option.
For 17 years, residents in parts of East Baton Rouge, Ascension and Livingston parishes have been paying a local tax to help fund construction of the Comite River Diversion Canal, designed to lower the flood risk of nearby homeowners. Then in 2016, record flooding hit the region — causing billions in damage. The incident only ignited the demand for answers from frustrated taxpayers.
Congress has voted to give victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria some tax relief as they recover from the disastrous storms. But taxpayers in Louisiana who flooded in 2016 won’t get the same assistance.
Since rainfall blanketed southeast Louisiana in August 2016, residents have wondered how the state can protect its people from future floods. Answering that question begins with understanding the geography we live in.
Denham Springs saw some of the worst damage in the August 2016 flood. As the rebuilding continues, the city is developing a long-term recovery plan — one designed by the people who live there. Denham Strong, the city's recovery planning group, gives residents an opportunity to advocate for what they want Denham Springs to look like years from now.