TOGETHER BATON ROUGE FLOOD MATTERS
Support the efforts of the State Office of Community Development to distribute the $1.6 billion of federal aid to flood victims by disseminating information about the restore.la.gov survey, which is the gateway to receiving benefits from this fund. The survey also helps in locating and defining problems that people are having in the recovery process, and may serve as the basis for arguing for more aid in the future.
2 . Prevention
A. Strengthening the authority of the Amite River Basin Commission
The Amite River Watershed functions as an interconnected whole, regardless of political boundaries, so that a flood-reduction measure in one part will inevitably have an adverse impact on another (whether on the residents or the environment). It therefore needs a Basin wide Watershed Planning Agency to coordinate and cooperate with local political jurisdictions within the Basin and with federal and state governments, to implement flood amelioration projects and programs throughout. The Amite River Basin Commission already has that authority at a general level, but its powers of implementation are limited. That implementation depends on sufficient staff and funding.
B. Incentivize development in higher elevations, not flood zones.
The August flood demonstrated that current FEMA Maps, last revised in 2012, which are used to determine who is required to carry flood insurance, can no longer serve as an accurate guide to future development. Unfortunately, replacing these maps is not as easy as it might seem. There is a new study getting underway of the hydrology of the region, thanks to a big grant from the Department of Transportation and Development, which could serve as the basis for new maps. We are deeply concerned about what happens in the interim. Decisions on new development should not be based on old, obsolete data.
C. Aggressively address drainage issues
1. This is an issue where there is room for citizen initiative, in keeping drains clear in their neighborhoods, including not blowing leaves into storm drains.
Citizens can also help locating where larger drainage problems occur, such as where debris is obstructing the flow of water in ditches and canals. To that end, we will launch a campaign we call “operation squeaky wheel”, working through our We the People organizations in each district to locate these problems spots throughout the city. We would then aggregate this data on our website.
2. All this will amount to little without government initiative.
A. We call for a comprehensive storm water master plan (as proposed in Mayor Broome’s Transition Team report), because one person’s drainage can easily turn into another person’s flood, unless drainage is treated as an interconnected whole.
B. The Department of Transportation and Drainage needs to be better funded. More drainage inspectors are needed so that the Department can respond more quickly to citizens’ complaints about drainage. One possible source of funding would be by capping the Industrial Tax Exemption.