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Concordia Parish will host the final public hearing and presentation on the statewide Watershed Initiative, on Tuesday, September 29, at 9 a.m.

The meeting, which is open to the public, will be held in the courtroom of the Concordia Parish Courthouse.

Bill Beasley will report on parishwide drainage concerns.

Other parishes have been invited to demonstrate drainage issues and needs in their parishes as well.

One of the core functions of the Louisiana Watershed Initiative is to proactively engage and collaborate with local residents, officials and technical experts, relying on their input to guide program efforts, according to Police Jury Secretary-Treasurer Sandi Burley.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recently signed a grant agreement with the state to establish a $1.2 billion line of credit in Community Development Block Grant mitigation funds.

This agreement means the state can begin funding vital flood protection efforts consistent with the state’s Action Plan that HUD approved Feb. 20.

“This agreement marks a major milestone in our mission to create a more resilient Louisiana, which is especially relevant given the severe storm impacts from Hurricane Laura,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said. “Since the devastating 2016 floods, we have worked diligently to build a statewide framework for reducing flood risk, which we have now with the Louisiana Watershed Initiative. We are prepared to begin spending these long-awaited funds on programs and projects that address some of our state’s most immediate flood mitigation priorities, as well as provide us the tools we need for a more resilient future.”

According to Burley, the original declarations of eligible parishes excluded Concordia and Tensas as well as five other parishes. She said the decision was based on no reported damages from the 2016 floods.

“Six flooding events were used to determine eligibility,” she said. “Concordia Parish has participated in the public comment period. The parish had more monetary damages in five of the six declarations than some parishes did in all six declarations.”

She said that while Phase I applications and projects have been submitted for the initial funding allocation, Concordia Parish has submitted several internal and multi-parish projects to alleviate flooding issues. In the Community Development Block Grant Master Disaster Mitigation Initiative’ (MIT) Plan, Concordia Parish is shown to be just as affected by flooding and drainage issues as some of the southern-most parishes.

Burley said Concordia is also divided “into two watershed regions – Region 2 being the southern-most tip of Concordia Parish and the remainder of the parish being in Region 3. This allows Concordia Parish to be represented in two different regions to voice concerns and submit projects in which to gain funding for positive improvements effecting our parish.” The state’s Action Plan for the $1.2 billion watershed grant details its approach to spending the funds on projects, data collection, watershed modeling and policy measures that align with the Louisiana Watershed Initiative's long-term resilience objectives, according to the governor. It includes an initial $100 million funding opportunity for local and regional projects that are implementation-ready and will address immediate flood mitigation needs throughout Louisiana. The state and its watershed regions will select and award funding for these projects this winter. “The work we’ve done since 2016, along with our approved Action Plan and grant agreement, provide a clear roadmap for using these funds, working in partnership with HUD and other local, state and federal agencies,” according to the governor.

In addition to allocating $100 million for implementation-ready flood mitigation projects, the state recently initiated comprehensive statewide watershed modeling efforts and is working with local and regional partners to develop flood risk reduction strategies specific to each of the state’s watershed regions.

Burley said public comments have been submitted in support of the parish.

The Jury’s comments on the matter were as follows:

“The allowable project funds are designated only to parishes with declared disasters in 2016. We would like to point out that Concordia Parish has more frequent declared disasters from flooding than many of the parishes listed as participating parishes in this grant program.

“What concerns us most is the large majority of water drained from the northern portion of the state (all of which will receive adequate funding to drain floodwaters out of their parishes quicker) will pass beside Concordia Parish. The concern for Concordia Parish is being on the receiving end of these flood waters with no funds to adequately take on additional flood waters.

“In the event that Concordia Parish experiences heavy rainfall within the parish and north of the parish, it will struggle to accommodate the rain event and the increase of flood waters being pushed down from the north.

“Concordia Parish designed and received funding for a $7 million drainage structure to assist the parish in getting flood water out the ring levee which surrounds the parish. Flood control gates will be placed in the Tensas levee (at its natural drainage outlet) to drain a large portion of the parish an estimated 94% of the year when the Tensas river is at or below forty-five feet gauge level. If the Tensas River experiences a higher level of water, it will decrease the effectiveness of the structure this new structure.

“As you can see, increased flood waters into the Tensas can have major effects on Concordia Parish's ability to mitigate its own frequent flooding. If this structure is not effective due to the investment to push more water onto Concordia Parish by the way of the Tensas River, than $7 million of Federal Funds will have been wasted, and Concordia Parish will still experience frequent flood events with no funds to mitigate the ongoing hazard. We are asking that you please consider Concordia Parish and its flood mitigation projects when planning and funding drainage in northeast Louisiana

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