The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recently issued a Federal Register Notice for the $1.2 billion mitigation allocation made to Louisiana as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018.
The guidance provides guidelines on eligible activities and investments that the state hopes to advance Louisiana’s pioneering long-term flood risk reduction and resilience initiative.
While the federal guidelines require the state to submit an action plan by Feb. 3, 2020, the state is working to submit its response as quickly as possible to begin the federal review and approval process.
“This news gets us one step closer to making the Louisiana Watershed Initiative’s mission a reality,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said.
“It creates an opportunity to address the root causes of flooding in our state, beginning with those areas devastated by the 2016 floods. As flooding becomes a more frequent concern for so many of our communities, it is imperative that we leverage opportunities like this to develop a mutual understanding of risk, increased accountability for decision-making and a stronger sense of long-term responsibility for Louisiana’s future.”
Approved by Congress, the $1.2 billion allocation will fund construction of flood-protection projects, along with collecting qualitative data and developing computer modeling to assess, predict and prepare for water movement throughout the state.
The data and modeling tools will help local governments select and prioritize long-term projects, as well as support regional planning efforts according to watersheds — areas connected by the natural flow of water as it travels to reach the lowest point in a landscape.
“This funding is critical to continuing flood mitigation work that began not long after the 2016 floods,” Pat Forbes, executive director of the Office of Community Development, said.
“We are refining our action plan, which we began to draft months ago in anticipation of receiving this notice, to meet these parameters while continuing to gather information from stakeholders around the state on how these funds can best be used to reduce flood risk.”
Per the federal guidelines, the state is required to spend at least 50 percent of the funds to benefit the 10 parishes designated as most impacted and distressed by the 2016 floods: Acadia, Ascension, East Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Livingston, Ouachita, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Vermilion and Washington.
In 2018, Edwards formed the Council on Watershed Management to guide the state toward a statewide resilience strategy.