Flooding: An Excess of Water, An Absence of Recompense

Jun 23, 2017

Cindy has left Louisiana, but not without leaving some flooded roadways behind. DOTD Secretary Shawn Wilson says anyone travelling today would be wise to check 511la.org first.

“When you get to that site, you have the opportunity to see any closure on the road, but more importantly, where we have high water.”

Cindy’s aftermath is mostly coastal road closures, and doesn’t come close to rivaling last August’s floods. That flooding was so extensive, it prompted the mayors of Walker and Denham Springs to sue the state, claiming I-12 exacerbated the flooding. Their suit is based on a judgment over the 1983 Tangipahoa River flood – a judgment the state has yet to pay.

“The state is not obligated to pay lawsuits. It is on the House of Representatives and the Senate to appropriate that money,” explains Representative Stephen Pugh of Ponchatoula. For the past decade, he has filed an annual bill trying to get the money paid to those who have been waiting 34 years for the help.

“They were given a mop and a gallon of bleach and a bucket,” Pugh says of the plaintiffs in that case. “And some people have not rebuilt – they just patched up. Unfortunately, many of them have died already.”

He says the state’s failure to pay this judgment is costing Louisiana’s citizens more and more each year – in goodwill, and in cash.

“The original settlement was supposed to be $93-million. It is approaching the $400-million price tag, with interest and all that has built up since ’83.”

This may be the largest unpaid lawsuit, but it’s far from the only one. Though we’ve been unable to get a definitive list, despite inquiring of the Attorney General’s office and the Division of Administration, a look at the 44 bills filed in 2016 to appropriate payment of judgments comes up with a total of over $111-million, plus interest. 

As was the case with Representative Pugh’s bill this year, these bills get referred to Appropriations, but never get heard. That has been the case for at least the past 20 years, according to legislative records.