WALKER — Rick Ramsey, mayor of Walker, has stated he will file suit on behalf of the city against the state and federal governments who he claims are responsible for the flooding that has impacted almost the entire city.
The culprit for the flooding is the construction of Interstate 12, he said.
“We decided to pursue legal action because the only way we could get the department of transportation and development (DODT) to address the barriers or the wall that’s built on the interstate is to force them to acknowledge that they contributed to the city flooding,” Ramsey told the Louisiana Record. “The requests I made to add outfall and drainage to relieve some of the flooding in the area were denied because DOTD said any increase in outfall from north of the interstate would increase flooding south of the interstate and they would be liable.”
Ramsey hopes to recover some of the city’s losses stemming from the flooding. Walker said municipal buildings and cars were damaged by the flooding.
"There was a loss of revenue from what would have come from sales tax generated from businesses that were flooded, too," he said. "Homes that were affected lost a number of utilities."
While Ramsey and the city are hoping to recover these losses, the suit is mainly about pushing the state government to acknowledge that the state wasn’t prepared for the situation.
“One of the primary outcomes we would hope for would be to force DOTD to acknowledge that they contributed feet to the flood stage, impacting Walker, which would not have come in otherwise,” Ramsey said. “And then force them to modify or remove the essentially six-foot dam that they placed between us and our south drainage.”
The lawsuit isn’t an after-the-fact matter, Ramsey. Before the major flooding occurred, Ramey emailed the DOTD while they were still in the heavy rainfall state. He told the organization he’d like to speak to leaders about the impact the barrier wall was having on flooding in Walker. He said he didn’t receive a response for two days and once he saw video and photographic evidence of six feet of water on the north side of the interstate and no water on the south side, he called the local media and announced his plans to file suit.
“Two days after that, DOTD calls and tells me they were a little concerned that I didn’t wait until they contact me, but I couldn’t wait,” Ramsey said. “People need to know there was an issue.”
It seems Walker won’t be alone in the lawsuit. Ramsey has encouraged other cities to take part in the suit. So far, he said at least one other municipality has agreed to join in the suit. The legal firm the city is contracted with will also represent Walker citizens in class-action suits.
Ramsey met with Louisiana Gov. Jon Bel Edwards and his staff on Aug. 30, and they were made aware that Ramsey has moved forward with legal action.
“The only thing I can tell you from their side is that they would be looking into it,” Ramsey said. “They didn’t feel like they had an obligation to build an interstate to permit flooding and my response to that was, ‘But you do have an obligation to build an interstate that doesn’t create flooding.’”