Let’s Talk About Flood Risk

Elevated home to help protect against flooding. Photo courtesy of Louisiana Sea Grant College Program Louisiana State University.Hurricanes Katrina and Rita taught many of us just how important protecting our communities from flooding is to our safety – not just during a storm, but every day. Over the next month, Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) will be holding a series of 4 “Community Conversations on the Flood Risk and Resilience Program” across the state. These conversations will inform that state’s 2017 Coastal Master Plan, so it’s important that CPRA hear from the citizens who are most at risk of flooding and impacted by coastal land loss. Unfortunately, CPRA hasn’t done very much to let people know about these “community conversations.” Here is a list of the meetings:Feb. 16, 4:30-6:30 p.m. Lafitte Multi-Purpose Center, 4917 City Park Drive Lafitte, LAFeb 17, 4:30-6:30 p.m. Terrebonne Parish Public Library, 151 Library Drive, Houma, LAFeb 23, 4:30-6:30 p.m. SEED Center, 4310 Ryan Street, Lake Charles, LAFeb 24, 4:30-6:30 p.m. Castine Center, 63350 Pelican Drive, Mandeville, LAYou can find more details on what will be discussed on the agenda here.Why care about these meetings? Much of the state’s $50 billion, 50 year restoration plan is focused on so-called “structural projects” like wetland restoration and levees, but roughly 20% of this money is earmarked for “nonstructural projects” like flood proofing, elevation and voluntary buyouts. While coastal restoration and levees will have a big impact, in many cases it will be decades before these projects are completed and begin to benefit residents. In contrast, flood risk and resilience projects (i.e. “nonstructural projects” ) can help protect communities sooner, often much sooner.We plan to attend these meetings and urge CPRA to invest in flood risk and resilience projects that will protect coastal communities now. We also be asking some pointed questions about the state’s plan, including:How is the CPRA deciding which communities should be the priority for any flood risk and resilience protections?If the state just uses economic cost-benefit analysis, then most of the money would go to the most populated areas behind existing or proposed levees. But, often the people and communities outside of levee protections need the help the most.Also, the CRPA’s 2012 evaluation criteria indicate that communities with over 100 homes are of the highest priority. Does that mean that these communities will receive priority under the program? What about smaller communities, especially those that are not going to have levee protections?” In 2012 the state prioritized elevation and flood proofing, not voluntary buyouts. They only projected voluntary buyouts of 230 homes statewide. In light of the continuing loss of wetlands, projected rise in sea level and continuing increases in the cost of flood insurance, is the CPRA reconsidering the need for buyouts to allow people to move to higher ground?Is CPRA planning to do comprehensive public outreach to get the word out to communities about the flood risk and resilience program? The publicity and outreach around these meetings has been minimal. If the same level of outreach is used when the program starts, only those already in the know will get any help.How much support will be provided to low income communities to help them understand and participate in programs?How will the state fund the program? Is CPRA planning on creating a dedicated fund or setting aside some of the BP money for this purpose? The state just received a HUD grant for this type of work, but the state’s application for that funding only focuses on St. John the Baptist, Plaquemines and lower Terrebonne Parish. What monies will be available to help residents of other Parishes? You can download a copy of these questions here. You can also read (much) more about the challenges Louisiana is facing to implement flood risk and resilience programs in the Center for Planning Excellence’s View from the Coast report.We hope to see at one of these meetings raising the issues that most concern you and your community!Raleigh Hoke is GRN’s Campaign Director.

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