Acadiana to receive $30M for hazard mitigation related to 2016 flood

Gov. John Bel Edwards kicks off the Louisiana resiliency program, marking the start of the Vermilion Watershed study looking at regional drainage issues in the wake of the 2016 floods. Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. (Photo: SCOTT CLAUSE/THE ADVERTISER)

(The Daily Advertiser) – Acadiana will receive $30 million to reduce flooding as a result of the August 2016 flood and 2008 hurricanes.

Gov. John Bel Edwards made the announcement Thursday in Lafayette at a kick-off of the Louisiana Resilient Recovery Study, a FEMA-initiated study that begins with a regional drainage study of the Vermilion River Watershed.

More than $25 million in hazard mitigation grant money is heading to Lafayette, St. Landry, St. Martin, Acadia, Iberia, Evangeline and Vermilion parishes because of the August 2016 flood.

The remaining $4.6 million will go to Lafayette, St. Landry, St. Martin and Vermilion parishes, which were affected by hurricanes Gustav and Ike in 2008.

The allocation is unique, Edwards said. He called the leaders of those parishes courageous because they agreed to pool their individual hazard mitigation dollars to focus on projects to improve drainage regionally instead of each parish spending its grant money on small projects benefiting their area.

“It’s harder,” Edwards said. “It requires more work. It’s politically risky, but it is the right thing to do.”

A 25 percent match brings that to between $37 million and $38 million for flood risk management in the 8-parish region, Edwards said.

Some of the money, he said, will be used to buy properties that repeatedly flood. But most will be used for regional projects to reduce the risk of flooding in the future.

Representatives from the federal government, including FEMA and EPA, along with state officials, including the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, and representatives from parishes across the state attended the Louisiana Resilient Recovery summit in Lafayette Thursday.

FEMA offered the state the opportunity to participate in a pilot project looking at flooding and drainage on a regional basis.

Fifty-six of Louisiana’s 64 parishes, Edwards said, were declared major federal disasters because of two flooding events in March and August of 2016.

In the Vermilion Parish watershed, $293 million in payments were made for property flooded in August 2016, Edwards said.

Leaders in Acadiana, spearheaded by St. Martin Parish President Guy Cormier, met shortly after the August 2016 flood to begin discussing how they might work regionally to address drainage.

Because that set them ahead of other areas, the Vermilion River Watershed is the first of three watersheds in the state that will participate in the FEMA pilot program through the fall.

Later this year, Edwards said, the Lower Ouachita Watershed will participate in the study and in early 2018, the Amite Watershed.

“Our constituents expect one thing above all else,” Lafayette Mayor-President Joel Robideaux said. “That’s for us to put aside our differences when there’s a crisis and work together.”

St. Landry Parish President Bill Fontenot reiterated what others have said: Water doesn’t know parish boundaries. If one parish or community implements a drainage project without consulting his neighbors, it might worsen flooding in adjacent parishes.

Four key objectives of the resiliency study are:

  • Develop a regional approach to decision making.
  • Develop and maintain strategic partnerships across different levels of government and across parish lines.
  • Develop a holistic approach to future flood risk.
  • Develop coordinated approaches to information gathering and sharing.

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