ST. TAMMANY PARISH, LA (WVUE) - North Shore officials were rallying the troops Tuesday, trying to save a bill that they say will ease flood concerns. But it may be in trouble due to environmental fears.
On Bayou Cane between Lacombe and Mandeville, you can see where the potential problems are. Branches can clog bayous, causing water to back up into an ever-growing number of neighborhoods.
"Currently, we can't remove anything without a scenic waterways permit," said Covington Councilman-at-Large Patrick McMath.
But a bill now moving through the Legislature could offer relief. It was originally written to allow dredging of Baton Rouge-area rivers and streams that caused devastating flooding last year. But an amendment to include St. Tammany residents is creating concern.
"Whenever a bill is done in haste, there are a lot of unintended consequences to that," said Shannon Bordelon with Bayou Adventure.
Approximately 1,200 St. Tammany homes flooded last year, but some fear the bill in its current form could allow for wide-scale dredging and development that they say would ruin scenic waterways.
"We have people who come here from all over the world to see our waterways they're so beautiful," said Bordelon.
Bill supporters want the bill amended to allow for - at the very least - de-snagging to allow the rivers and bayous to flow freely. They say ruining rivers or speeding development is not the issue.
"I speak for the council and the mayor when I say we don't want to see the words 'dredging' and 'clearing of banks' in this bill," said McMath.
Environmentalists want to see the issue studied further. But others say the time to act is now.
North Shore officials say if the bill fails, they will continue to try and clear clogs, but it will just make things more difficult.
Councilman McMath is also calling for new rules regarding retention pond requirements.
House Bill 132 comes up for debate in the House Tuesday night.