Louisiana senators approve taskforce to study storm water, cleaning up waterways

Published: Apr. 30, 2021 at 7:30 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The growing number of plastic bottles and beer cans accumulating behind LSU’s Burden Center is one step closer to being cleaned up.

A task force aimed at cleaning up the mess Louisianans have left behind got the nod of approval from the Senate Thursday. It now heads to the House for approval.

The task force would look at the costs associated with implementing a comprehensive storm water plan and how to pay for them.

According to Sen. Franklin Foil, who is proposing the task force, most cities around the state fail to remediate storm water impairments due to a lack of available funds to install litter collecting equipment.

Marie Constantin has been working on drawing attention to the issue of trash clogging the state’s waterways. She has worked closely with Foil since the 81 tons of litter was exposed behind the Burden Center.

Constantin said she is close to securing grants and private dollars to help Baton Rouge obtain the necessary trash-collecting equipment but in the long term, she said any storm water program would likely need the support of public dollars.

“What we’d hope to do would be to declare storm water to be a utility so that any city or town that wanted it could fund it. It would be optional, up to you,” Constantin said.

The model she thinks Louisiana could follow is that of what is being done in Florida. She said on average residents pay roughly $3.50 extra on their utility bills to help fund infrastructure and cleaning efforts.

“If we explain to them, if we show them the result when we clean this up, if we show the cost and this is how to fund it, I really think Louisiana is going to step up to the plate,” she said.

Foil is not in favor of a storm water fee at this time. He said he would prefer to secure grants and other sources of funding to pay for any improvements but it will ultimately rely on what the task force decides is best.

“There’s equipment that you can get to catch waste that you put in the water and the problem has been getting the funding for that but I think it’s a big enough of a problem where we need to find a solution,” Foil said.

Foil said he expects the task force to be approved by lawmakers and to begin work sometime in the summer. Any recommendations made by the group would likely result in legislation during the next legislative session.

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