Police Jury Votes On Funding for Erosion Study

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At Wednesday’s Bossier Parish Police Jury meeting, the jury opposed funding the Highway 537 erosion study.

Prior to voting, the jury heard comments from Save 537 Coalition representative, Bill Robertson.

“Our solution that we have identified is to conduct an engineering analysis which can then be presented to our congressional delegation for action by the Army Corps of Engineers. Very simply, the Lord helps those who help themselves. We want to ask the jury to put some skin in the game and to hire professionals who can identify the problem we’ve identified and also some low cost solutions that will control the river and prevent the washout of this highway. If you lose the infrastructure, you lose the community. And, our coalition has approximately 100 people (give or take) who have joined us in fighting for this road,” said Robertson.

Following Robertson’s remarks to the jury, Red River Valley Association executive director, Rich Brontoli, addressed the jury to answer questions that the jury might have.

District 3 Bossier Parish Police Juror, Philip Rogers, asked Brontoli if the $50,000 would be enough to get something done within the next two to three years.

“Do you think it’s a viable $50,000 to spend for a study on a bridge that more than likely in a couple of years will be gone? Could we get anything done in two to three years?,” asked Rogers.

Brontoli responded saying, “There are a number of ways through the federal government, long term. This would have to be something for our delegation to take and expedite in getting something done.”

“It is an emergency. It’s caving very quickly towards the bridge, there’s no doubt about it. Since 2015, it has drastically come closer to the bridge,” Brontoli added.

The Save 537 Coalition was asking the jury to provide $25,000 in matching funds to pay for an engineering analysis. The coalition planned to add an equal amount from the state.

Police jurors voted 10-2 against the item. Voting in favor were District 4 Police Juror John Ed Jorden and District 6 Police Juror Chris Marsiglia.

The river is about 133 feet away from Highway 537, having moved an estimated three-quarters of a mile to the east since the 1940’s.

Further erosion of the land will prompt closure of the highway and force those who live and work in the area to take a detour of about 14 miles or more. The increased driving distance will increase response times for police and fire personnel.

At the April 7th Bossier Parish Police Jury meeting, the jury declared “a threat to public safety and welfare” from the erosion of land on the Red River near Plain Dealing that threatens to close Louisiana Highway 537 and wash out of the bridge.

Bossier Parish Engineer Butch Ford shared maps and pictures to the jury of the Red River’s movement to the east and toward LA 537 since the 1940’s. Ford stated that the parish has been “watching this matter closely” for several years and has consulted state and Army Corps of Engineers officials.

“It may be too late to save the bridge,” Ford said, noting that the river appears to be eroding 250 to 300 feet of land each year.