BATON ROUGE, La. — A group of Louisiana flood victims who have been owed over $300 million for the past decade have filed a lawsuit against the state for failure to pay.
The Advocate reports that Tangipahoa Parish home and small business owners who flooded in 1983 filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Baton Rouge on Thursday.
The state has violated constitutional protections of equal treatment by not paying the money, Byard Edwards, a lawyer who has represented the flood victims, said.
“We understand money is available,” Eric R. Nowak, a New Orleans lawyer handling the lawsuit, said, “But at some point, they need to take some responsibility.”
The latest lawsuit comes after residents won a lawsuit in 2003 which found the construction of a local highway blocked drainage of the Tangipahoa River. The court ruled the state failed to conduct needed studies on the river, and ordered Louisiana to pay millions in damages plus other costs and interest.
The state government has not paid the flood victims citing a lack of funds. Now, the total amount owed by Louisiana taxpayers exceeds $320 million.
Multiple state bills over the years have tried to get the judgment paid, but the bills never passed. The federal court can now order them to pay the judgment, Nowak said.
Louisiana’s Commissioner of Administration, Jay Dardenne, would not comment on the active litigation. He has not seen the lawsuit but the state has been in conversations with Tangipahoa flood victims, Dardenne added.
In the meantime, a rising Mississippi River threatened to bring new flooding to Louisiana this month. The river in New Orleans has dropped, but there is still a threat of flooding this spring across a third of the country.
The Times-Picayune reports the river dropped below 15 feet on Wednesday at the Carrollton gauge, located in the city’s uptown neighborhood.
As the river levels decrease, the Army Corps of Engineers changed rules that prohibit construction work on or near the river. It has also revised river inspections from at least once a day to twice weekly.
But according to federal forecasters, an increase in rainfall across areas north of Louisiana will pose a threat of high river conditions through May. Highly saturated soil in areas where rainfall might occur will also increase the chances of flooding across central and southeastern states, officials added.
The Mississippi River watershed faces a risk of major flooding. Those conditions do not represent a threat of levee failure in Louisiana.
Some upper parts of the Mississippi River and other rivers are also predicted to reach high flood conditions this spring.
Upper river conditions along the northern Gulf Coast are expected to result in above-average dead zone conditions, the Director of NOAA’s National Water Center, Ed Clark, said. This will make shrimp and fish go elsewhere.
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