Over the past seventy years, Louisiana has lost nearly 1,900 square miles of marsh, and is still losing 25 to 30 square miles each year, nearly a football field of beneficial wetlands every hour.
In order to be proactive and to increase community involvement, Restore or Retreat and the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) hosted a “Community Conversation” event last Tuesday. The event was designed to inform the Lafourche residents and business owners of their flood risks, to show different precautionary measures that they could use to protect themselves from future storms and to give updates on ongoing projects designed to reduce risks related to coastal erosion.
The CPRA did a live presentation on their new web-based, flood risk viewer, recently launched with the support of Shell. The viewer can be seen at cims.coastal.louisiana.gov/floodrisk. The viewer allows you to see both the Louisiana coast as a whole and your own community, showing the coastal land loss and flood risks throughout the entire area from now to 50 years in the future.
The viewer also provides information on potential economic damages that these floods could cause, the impact on communities, the various CPRA projects to reduce land loss and flood risk, and the resources that individuals and businesses can use to help reduce their flood risk.
“Project information will be updated on a quarterly basis and 2017 flood depth data will also be added,” said Andrea Galinski, a coastal resources scientist for the CPRA. "This is a great first step, but we're trying to build upon what we've done and further our understanding of flood risk.”
Presenters advised attendees of resources available in order to prepare for future flood and hurricane related emergencies. Those in attendance were also given information on flood insurance maps, building in coastal areas and available funding sources for elevating homes.
Informational booths manned by representatives from the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, UNO CHART (University of New Orleans Center for Hazards Assessment, Response and Technology) and the LSU Ag Center were available to show graphs, charts and resources while representatives answered questions. Representatives from Shell, the sponsor of the event, were also in attendance.
Currently, there are numerous ongoing projects to help protect the coast from further erosion. Without coastal protection, flood risks for Lafourche and other coastal parishes will increase dramatically.
"Over 30 years, you basically have a 26 percent chance of experiencing an event like Katrina," Karim Belhadjali, deputy chief of strategic planning for the CPRA said. "To know that you have a 26 percent chance, that's pretty high. You may think, ‘Oh, I have 1 percent a year. It's not a big deal.' But over time, that likelihood increases."
Restore or Retreat Executive Director Simone Maloz said the viewer provides helpful information. Though users can enter their address, she suggested also looking at the bigger picture.
“The shoreline restoration project, such as the one in Camanada, is crucial,” said Maloz. “Barrier islands, marshes, and swamps throughout our coast reduce incoming storm surge, helping to reduce flooding impacts. If we continue to lose these habitats, the vulnerability of communities and infrastructure will increase substantially.”
Phase 1 of the Caminada Project is finished, with six miles of new dune and beach restoration totaling 303 acres just south of Port Fourchon. Final work, such as the planting of dune vegetation, should be completed early this year.
According to Windell Curole, Director of the South Lafourche Levee District, the Caminada Project is an important barrier needed to protect Fourchon, Highway 1 to Grand Isle, the barrier basin and everyone who resides in and north of the levee protection system as well.
“Whether or not we can stop this land loss will be determined by our economy and whether we keep moving forward,” he said. "You always need to talk to your local officials, especially when it comes to storms. Getting flood insurance is not a bad idea, even when you're out of the flood zone. There's a lot of flooding that takes place outside of the 100-year flood."
The LSU Ag Center offers additional information on flood insurance and building flood-resistant homes on their website LSUAgCenter.com/FloodSmart. They also provide vital flood zone, wind speed, and ground elevation information at Floodmaps.LSUAgCenter.com.
“Everybody has an ‘it won’t happen to us’ attitude and that’s what I’m afraid of. We really need to know the flood risks,” said State Representative Jerry “Truck” Gisclair.
Monica Farris, PhD and Director of Research was representing UNO CHART – an organization that conducts research on flood and storm risks in order to create programs to tackle these issues. One such program is the use of booklets on flood preparedness that read at a sixth grade level in an attempt to simultaneously inform while aiding in adult literacy programs.
“We are helping to inform people so they can make the right choices for disasters that are common in our area while aiding in adult literacy,” she said.
Although the main subject of the event was flood risks, the wind risk of hurricanes was discussed.
“One of the problems that we see is the risk of wind hazards in highly elevated homes,” said representative from the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, Shontae Davis.
Davis informed community residents about the government website designed to help people prepare for emergency storms at getagameplan.org. On the website, people can use tools provided to form a family plan, business plan and more. An app is also available under the name of Get A Game Plan on iTunes for iPhones and iPads. People can also get updates via Twitter, Facebook and Youtube.
Another free meeting is set for 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Terrebonne Parish Public Library, 151 Library Drive, Houma. To RSVP, call 985-492-8268.
Posted on Fri, February 27, 2015
by Ulysses Gisclair, Contributing Writer