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Parish will have shot at portion $1.2 billion through Louisiana Watershed Initiative

December 6, 2019
In The News

It would appear that the statement continually uttered by Congressman Garret Graves, that 'disaster recovery is six times more expensive than disaster prevention,' has hit the right ears.

President Donald Trump signed into law a $28 billion block grant through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

While Graves is not pleased with the amount of time it took to get the money out, when compared to the disaster, the state of Louisiana will receive $1.21 billion of that total outlay. The federal government required an Action Plan, presented by the recently formed Louisiana Watershed Initiative (LWI) as to how they intended to distribute the funds.

 

The LWI will focus on four specific areas:

  • Watershed projects and programs - $570,666,243 (47%)
  • State projects and programs - $327,757,590 (27%)
  • Watershed monitoring, mapping, and modeling - $145,670,040 (12%)
  • Watershed policy, planning, and local capacity assistance - $24,278,340 (2%)
  • Non-federal cost share assistance - $96,988,107 (8%)

Administrative costs are baked into the grant at $48,556,680 or 4% total.

Funding will come in rounds, with round 1 consisting of $100 million total statewide. LWI divided the state into eight total watersheds, with Livingston sitting in group 7 - along with portions of Washington, Tangipahoa, St. Tammany, East Baton Rouge, Ascension, St. Helena, East Feliciana, and West Feliciana.

Each watershed will elect a fiscal agent to represent their interests at the 'table,' so to speak, which is the LWI board that meets regularly. Group 7's fiscal agent is, at this time, the Capital Region Planning Commission (CRPC). 

Livingston received a special designation as a HUD-specific, major disaster area. That puts it in line with nine other parishes for 50% of the community block grant monies as an automatic distribution. 26 other parishes will compete for the other 50%, if applicable, or the HUD-specific will take the remainder.

Group 7's first meeting will be this Friday, Dec. 6, at the Bluebonnet library beginning at 9:30 a.m. The group will discuss their action plan for pursuing the first round of funding, coming in 2020, with phases 2 and 3 coming in 2022 and 2024, respectively.

Phase 1 funding is provided as an incentive for local governments to act within their group, as opposed to alone, to develop regional drainage plans on a watershed basis, as opposed to single drainage outlet basis. Rounds 2 & 3 will be more restricted to models that prove a specific return on investment, based on developed modeling, for their specific watershed.

Livingston's inclusion in the HUD-specific parishes comes on the back of the Great Flood of 2016. The state's action plan lists the August flood as a special section, highlighting the devastation incurred by the disaster with the following facts and figures:

  • An estimated 8,000 people were evacuated to emergency shelter sites
  • 30,000 search-and-rescues were performed
  • 11,000 sheltered at the height of the disaster
  • 30 state roads washed out
  • 1,400 bridges requiring inspection
  • 200 highways closed during the flood
  • Portions of interstate closed, in some cases for multiple days
  • 91,628 homes were document with damage
  • 31% of homes in declared parishes were impacted by flooding, only 11% with flood insurance
  • 19,900 Louisiana businesses or roughly 20% of all Louisiana businesses
  • 278,500 workers disrupted, 14% of Louisiana's workforce
  • $300 million in labor lost, $836 million in terms of value added
  • 6,000 businesses flooded directly
  • LSU Ag Center estimated crop loss in the $110 million range

In order to try and stop that from happening again, watersheds will participate in what is being defined as a competitive process. The action plan outlines the ability for watersheds to pursue grant funding through all of the program areas to work in tandem.

"As local, regional, and state government and organizations work through the LWI toward regional, watershed-based coordination and as the LWI develops datasets and modeling tools to inform watershed management policy and project mitigation activities (see also Program Areas 3 & 4), the LWI will provide funding and assistance to local and regional organizations to implement identified projects and program with demonstrable and quantifiable mitigation outcomes," the plan states.

Program Area 1, which are focused on local watershed projects and programs, are focused (but not limited to) the following list:

 
 
  • Watershed restoration and preservation, flood mitigation of critical facilities and infrastructure, nonstructural mitigation, stormwater management, and other innovative/replicable flood control activities;
  • Elevation, buyout or acquisition of floodplain easements in strategically located flood abatement areas or existing developments located in repetitive loss areas;
  • Voluntary relocation projects enabling residents to move out of high flood risk areas;
  • Major capital projects that improve resilience to flooding, provide regional stormwater detention, or other flood protection measures;
  • Capacity building toward implementation of resilient development standards and floodplain management regulations;
  • Housing developments using sound, resilient construction practices to mitigate long-term flood risk;
  • Training and certification in resilient building methods;
  • Training and apprenticeship programs to educate elementary, secondary, and post-secondary students in watershed data collection, modeling, and resilient best practices; and
  • Any other relevant projects and programs developed through the LWI’s watershed modeling, statewide planning, and regional planning efforts.

Program area 2 includes State projects and programs, which can include regional retention and detention projects that would help with the large rainfall events that lead to flash flooding. Also on the list for state projects are:

Large area buyouts - Purchasing subdivisions and homes that are in repetitive loss situations

Resilient, affordable housing programs - Moving poor out of flood hazard areas and into more flood-mitigated housing

Remote lands purchasing - Land that was once subdivided for development but is no longer desirable due to a disaster. The state could potentially use funds to purchase these areas for detention and retention.

Livingston Parish, in their pursuit of a master drainage plan, could benefit from program areas 3 & 4 - which deal with monitoring, mapping, modeling, and policy, however their fund totals are much lower.

The Livingston Parish Council allocated roughly $167,000 as a grant match to improve the Master Plan to include a zoning and master drainage plan.