THE ISSUE: Ascension Parish has been discussing a sewer line to the Mississippi River for nearly two decades. This day, it was achieved.

LOCAL IMPACT: This project means a better quality of life for the residents of East Ascension Parish, taking drainage away from local, smaller waterways and closer to unifying wastewater treatment in the parish.

Just over the levee at Marchand School Road towards Darrow is a new wastewater discharge pipeline that is a positive improvement to Ascension Parish's sewer treatment on the east bank.

A ribbon cutting was held October 25 to celebrate the completion of a project that has been discussed for nearly 17 years, according to a parish official.

"Ascension Parish has worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for over a decade to start sewer projects," Parish President Kenny Matassa said. "Under my administration talk became a reality, and today we cut the ribbon on our first construction job."

President Matassa explained the importance of the sewer line into the Miss. River. The project, which took over a year to complete, will remove wastewater from our inland waterways and meet DEQ standards. It will also almost certainly promote expansion in the area.

The project was said to have been started under former Parish President Tommy Martinez and driven home by President Matassa.

Col. Michael Clancy with the U.S. Corps of Engineers was credited by Matassa, as well as U.S. Rep. Garret Graves's office for helping the parish get the grant needed for the project: CDBG funds in limbo from Hurricane Gustav. Additionally, the project falls under what is known as a 219, a government cost-share for smaller environmental infrastructure projects. According to Col. Clancy, the project cost $2.1 million, a 75-25 percent cost share between the Federal Government and Ascension Parish.

"We look forward to building on this success, especially so we can get more federal dollars spent in Ascension Parish," Matassa said. "Most importantly this project means a better quality of life for the residents of East Ascension and brings us a step closer to unifying wastewater treatment in Ascension Parish."

Federal grants for additional discharge projects were a focus during the ribbon cutting ceremony. Parish Chief Administrative Officer Ken Dawson echoed Matassa in a speech. He assured that as long as the parish has long term plans in order, that more funding will become available. And that they do have further plans in order.

"Our effort to bring in dollars from whatever resources we can get them for projects in Ascension Parish is a major focus," Dawson said.

Col. Clancy offered the nuts and bolts to the guests. Essentially, a 560-gallon-per-minute pump station was created 4,000 feet from the discharge line in Hillaryville. That is where the wastewater will be treated before it is sent into the Mississippi River.

"This is the first time treated wastewater is actually leaving Ascension Parish, and not staying in the parish to go to our local waterways here," Col. Clancy said. "The parish's long-term plan with [sic] places like Blind River and Bayou Conway are going to get less effluent going in them now . . . where it's a teeny fraction of the river versus a large fraction of water in smaller ditches and bayous around the parish."