In March and August 2016, Louisiana experienced two historic rain events that produced trillions of gallons of rainwater. The rising floodwaters reached more than 145,000 homes throughout the state, leaving behind an estimated $10 billion in damage and resulting in recovery efforts that will take years to complete.
These devastating events exposed key weaknesses in Louisiana’s approach to floodplain management and risk-reduction planning at all levels of government. In response, Gov. John Bel Edwards charged several state agencies with coordinating their efforts to develop a new approach to reducing flood risk throughout Louisiana. This early work included efforts ranging from the development of hydraulic and hydrologic models to the development of watershed coalitions in coordination with parish, state and federal entities. Over the course of this two-year period, the state and its partners have made significant progress and many findings have emerged that are helping to inform the state’s shift from mitigating flood risk within jurisdictional boundaries to one that more directly takes into account the flow of water and its natural boundaries.
In May 2018, Gov. Edwards issued an executive order establishing the Council on Watershed Management to develop and implement a statewide floodplain management program based on watersheds as opposed to political and jurisdictional boundaries, which water does not recognize. The Council was charged with empowering local jurisdictions and communities to implement regional, long-term solutions that follow watershed boundaries to better reduce flood risk in Louisiana communities.
The Louisiana Watershed Initiative serves as the program through which floodplain management responsibilities are coordinated across federal, state and local agencies, supported by experts who serve as advisors in building a foundation of data, projects, policies, standards and guidance.
The Initiative’s fundamental mission acknowledges two crucial realities:
- First, the flow of water within a watershed connects several communities—and the decisions made in one part of a watershed will have impacts on other communities.
- Second, flooding is not only a function of total rainfall, but also land use, policy and infrastructure decisions made by a variety of governing authorities.
Moving forward, the Watershed Initiative aims to leverage the state’s past and current flood-risk reduction and resilience efforts, while identifying the data, projects and policies needed for improved programs and opportunities.
In 2018, Gov. Edwards announced a $1.2 billion allocation from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development earmarked for flood risk-reduction and mitigation efforts in Louisiana. These funds will be used on projects, data collection and modeling, and policy measures that advance the Louisiana Watershed Initiative’s long-term resilience objectives.
On Aug. 23, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development released requirements detailing eligible activities and processes for spending the CDBG-MIT funds. The state is aligning its draft Action Plan to its federally approved hazard mitigation plan and HUD’s guidance to ensure consistency and efficiency across flood-mitigation efforts, as well as leveraging feedback received during recent statewide outreach initiatives.
The Watershed Initiative represents unprecedented levels of coordination and collaboration, bringing together experts in the public and private sector throughout the state; government agencies at the city, parish, state and federal levels; research institutions; and nonprofit organizations. Moving forward, the Initiative is poised to serve as a model for maximizing the financial, intellectual and government resources to ensure long-term sustainability and safety for all Louisiana residents.
COUNCIL ON WATERSHED MANAGEMENT AGENCIES
- Office of Community Development (OCD)
- Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA)
- Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP)
- Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD)
- Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (DWF)
THE GOVERNOR’S VISION FOR WATERSHED-BASED FLOODPLAIN MANAGEMENT
Read more about Gov. Edwards’ long-term vision for statewide sustainability and resilience in Louisiana.OUR VISION
- CPRA investigates the alignment of flood protection authorities with watershed boundaries as part of its response to Louisiana Senate Resolution 39
- March and August: 145,000 homes damaged by flooding events
- Gov. Edwards directs state agencies to coordinate programs and efforts toward future flood risk mitigation
- CPRA develops Flood Risk and Resilience Program framework
- Following the 2016 floods, state agencies begin to facilitate the development of watershed coalitions, driven by the Louisiana Resilient Recovery Initiative that included parish government entities, OCD, GOHSEP and FEMA
- OCD and DOTD begin to develop a hydraulic and hydrologic model of the Amite Watershed
- Cooperating agencies begin Phase I of a process to develop a statewide watershed-based floodplain management program
- Gov. Edwards issues EO JBE18-16 creating the Council on Watershed Management comprising the Office of Community Development, Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, Department of Transportation and Development, and Department of Wildlife and Fisheries
- Cooperating agencies release a multi-phased plan, early actions, and initial Louisiana Watershed Initiative program framework to conduct watershed-based floodplain management