Baton Rouge Eyes Ex-Golf Course in $9.3M Flood Control Plan

August 9, 2021

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Baton Rouge officials are eyeing a closed golf course as a floodwater detention area, but the owner says he doesn’t want to sell.

The city-parish announced Friday that the Louisiana Watershed Initiative had awarded it $6 million to buy 65 acres (26 hectares) of the former Sherwood Forest Golf Course. Paired with $3.27 million in local funding, the city-parish said it would buy the land, dig out parts to hold water from Jones Creek when it floods and possibly use the land as a park.

The city-parish has been buying vacant land to use for stormwater detention after flooding in 2016 that caused widespread damage in southeast Louisiana.

“This project is another example of the aggressive approach my administration is taking to address drainage throughout the parish,” Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome said in a statement.

But Randy Dornier, whose family controls a company that owns the land, told WAFB-TV that he doesn’t want to sell.

“If I really thought this was the solution to the 2016-type flooding, I’d have to bow out and say it’s for the good of the community, but I know it’s not,” Dornier said.

Instead, Dornier said he wants to restore the golf course. In 2019, a developer proposed building a 276-home subdivision on the course, a move opposed by residents of the older neighborhood that surrounds the property.

Parish officials said they haven’t talked to Dornier yet. They said they would consider forcing a sale of the land using eminent domain if Dornier doesn’t want to sell.

The homeowners group surrounding the idled golf course welcomed the plan.

“It’s not just good for Sherwood Forest. It’s good for all the subdivisions around this area, and so we’re very, very happy they are working to make our quality of life better,” Debra Simino, president of the 3,000-member Sherwood Forest Citizens Association, told The Advocate.

The Watershed Initiative is a federally funded program developed in response to the 2016 floods. A state council on Thursday approved $34 million for 13 flood protection projects across the state.

The city-parish said the detention area would reduce peak flood levels on Jones Creek, with peak upstream levels falling by as much as 6 inches (15 centimeters) .

“It doesn’t sound like a lot, but 6 inches is a big deal, especially when you’re looking out your door and the water is right there at your slab level,” said Fred Raiford, city-parish director of transportation and drainage. “Maybe it doesn’t go in now because we were able to retain some of the peak flow.”

Parish officials plan to dig out the 210,000 cubic yards (160,000 cubic meters) of storage capacity and install structures that will allow water to flow in and out by gravity alone.

Jones Creek is also one of the five waterways the city-parish plans to improve as part of a $255 million U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plan that has been incorporated into Baton Rouge’s stormwater master plan.

The detention pond could help ease fears that water will flow more quickly downstream into the Amite River, worsening flooding in Ascension and Iberville parishes.

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