The District was created in 1981 by the Louisiana Legislature by Act 896 and included all the territory within the watershed limits of the Amite River and Tributaries Basin in Louisiana within the parishes of East Baton Rouge, St. Helena, Livingston and those portions east of the Mississippi River in Ascension and St. James Parishes. The original legislation was designed to establish the District as a regional non-federal entity to cooperate with both state and federal governments in establishing major flood control efforts. In addition, the District was given the authority to levy a drainage tax pursuant to approval of such millage assessment by a majority of voters in the Amite River Basin Drainage and Water Conservation District.
Amendments to the enabling legislation were made in 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1989, and 1991. In 1982, East Feliciana Parish was added to the original language, and changes were made to the number of Board members. Amendments in 1983 were administrative, relating to appointment and 1ength of term of commissioners to the Board. In 1984, amendments were made to change the boundaries of the Basin in Ascension and St. James parishes from the Mississippi River eastward to U.S. Highway 61. This was part of an agreement with the Pontchartrain Levee District that provided the District with its first significant funding -- in exchange for removing the major industrial areas of those District parishes that also lay within the boundaries of the Levee District. As a result of these changes and exclusion of the watershed area in Mississippi, the Amite River Basin District boundaries do not reflect the Basin's physiographic boundaries. Also in a 1984 amendment, the subsection which had limited the District's authority to regulate or affect the operation of any gravel mining business was repealed.
Following an in-house study by Brown & Butler, in 1984, the State hired that firm to review the feasibility of constructing a reservoir in the upper Amite River Basin. The study recommended that a wet reservoir be constructed near Darlington. Based upon this recommendation, the State applied to the USACE for a construction permit for the reservoir. This required an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) for which the State then hired the firm of Espey, Huston & Associates, Inc.
The 1985 amendments dealt with right of entry and expropriation.
By 1989, the studies complete, the ARBC recommended to the Governor that the State proceed with its efforts to construct a wet reservoir. Meanwhile, the 1989 amendments revised the District's authority to levy up to a three mill drainage tax by adding a provision which required that any mill levy be approved by a majority of the voters within the District, and that those parishes that do not approve such a levy by a majority be exempted.
In 1990, Governor Roemer established the Governor's Interagency Task Force on Flood Prevention and Mitigation through an Executive Order to examine and make recommendations on measures to mitigate floods in the Amite River Basin. Additionally, it required that a coordinated interagency review be made of existing and potential solutions to identify and expedite implementation of effective flood damage reduction measures. This study recommended the construction of a dry reservoir near Darlington, among other programs and that the USACE be invited to reestablish studies which had been discontinued in 1985.
As a result of another recommendation, Governor Roemer issued an Executive Order in 1991 that established the Amite River Basin Interagency Committee (ARBIC). The purpose of ARBIC, comprised of appropriate state agencies, is to provide to the District the technical assistance necessary in developing and implementing flood 1oss reduction programs; to serve as the State's single point of contact for the District and tributary projects with the USACE; and to serve as the District's coordination group for economic development studies for East Feliciana and St. Helena parishes -- the areas where the proposed reservoir would be constructed.
Further amendments were made to the original legislation in 1991 to establish ARBC in the role previously identified for the Office of Public Works. In addition, reports from committees formed as a result of the Governor's Interagency Task Force were developed in 1991. One report identified improvements that could be made to the ARBC for improving the operations and administration of the District. Another report was deve1oped which analyzed the impacts of the sand and gravel mining industry upon Amite River flooding, and provided recommendations for improvement and changes.
In 1991, the first legislative appropriation of funds to support the operations of the District was passed. A full-time staff was hired and a Basin-wide newsletter was initiated to serve the District's Community Rating System program. The District provided support to parish and municipal governments to join the National Flood Insurance Program's Community Rating System (CRS). This program grants credits to local governments whose floodplain management program efforts exceed the minimum requirements. These credits are, in turn, used to reduce every NFIP policy holder's flood insurance premiums within each community. To date, CRS has resulted in over $200,000 in savings, Basin-wide. As part of the CRS program, the ARBC also sponsors Flood Awareness Week activities.
The ARBC's efforts in 1991 gained the District national attention during 1992. In February, the first ever "field trip" of the national Federal Interagency Task Force on Floodplain Management was conducted in the Amite River Basin. This effort led to grant applications for this planning effort and a multiple-objective river corridor management study that would tie together the interests and needs of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Park Service (NPS) with those of floodplain, water quality, economic development, and recreation management. A multi-objective management program is still being pursued. In 1992 the State Legislature provided an increased level of funding for District activities.
In 1999, Act 1045 formally and legally defined the basin using a lengthy metes and bounds description. For the most part the boundaries matched the hydraulic boundaries of the Amite River Basin, however a small notch of East Baton Rouge Parish along the Mississippi River in the petrochemical plant area, and a much larger area south of Highway 61 containing an area of Iberville Parish and areas of Ascension and St. James Parishes were excluded from the ARBC jurisdiction. The small area in EBRP was reportedly excluded because it encompasses the petrochemical plants.
The larger area south of Highway 61 was reportedly excluded to reduce conflict with the Pontchartrain Levee District (PLD) which has jurisdiction and performs projects there. The Act also defined a “Comite River Diversion Canal Impact Area” largely but not entirely located within the ARBC jurisdiction. It was defined using another lengthy metes and bounds description, and also hand drawn on maps by ARBC and adopted by the Legislature, intended to describe the area benefitted by the Comite River Diversion Channel Project, and solely to provide a taxing area specific to that project, independent of the rest of the ARBC jurisdiction. The CRDC Impact Area protrudes from the full ARBC jurisdiction near Zachary, to the west, following the right of way of the diversion channel.
In 2022, pursuant to the 2021 House Continuing Resolution 46, Act 490 was promulgated. This act made significant changes to the makeup and governance of the ARBC. The most notable changes are detailed below:
Amite River Basin Drainage & Water Conservation District
3535 S. Sherwood Forest Blvd, Suite 135
Baton Rouge, LA 70816