Public comments on a proposed action plan for spending $1.2 billion in federal funds dedicated to flood mitigation will be accepted through Nov. 29.
The proposed Action Plan outlines the state’s approach to funding projects, data collection, modeling and policy measures that align with the Louisiana Watershed Initiative's long-term resiliency objectives.
The last of four listening tours to gain input across the state was held Tuesday. The Monroe area hosted an event Thursday.
Monroe, West Monroe and parish officials gathered at the Ouachita Parish Emergency Operation Center to learn about the draft plan and the funds.
The Watershed Initiative plans to use a portion of the money to support project construction, high-quality data collection and the development of computer modeling to better assess, predict and prepare for water movement throughout the state. These measures could help local leaders to prioritize and select long-term projects.
Many officials were concerned about how funds would be distributed to specific projects in the near future. Project-specific spending details are not available, but Watershed Initiative Program Director Alex Carter was able to breakdown the different avenues through which funds will be distributed.
She also said more specifics regarding project applications will become available when a line of credit is established for the federal dollars.
According to the draft action plan, the state will spend at least 50% of funds provided, or $606,958,000, to benefit areas identified by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as the most impacted and distressed areas.
Ouachita Parish is a MID area along with East Baton Rouge, Livingston, Ascension, Tangipahoa, Lafayette, Vermillion, Acadia, Washington and St. Tammany parishes.
Casey Tingle, deputy director, chief of staff of the Governor's Office of Homeland Security, said the federal government makes the call on which parishes are MID areas.
"They do this for every state that goes through this process and gets an appropriation," Tingle said. "Every state that potentially gets some of this money, they have identified the counties or the parishes that met that criteria."
Tingle explained that both Louisiana flooding events in 2016 were evaluated to identify the MID areas.
Carter said no individual projects are detailed within the action plan, but it does contain programs that will fund projects and data collection and modeling programs.
"If you think about your project, what you are going to want to think about is if it will fit within this pot of money. Will it fit within this objective? Those are things that are in the action plan," Carter said.
Of the $1.2 billion in community development block grant funds, all money must be spent to reduce flood risk or as an investment in mitigation activities.
"What we see is $970 million in projects and the rest in administration, modeling, planning and strategy implementation costs," Carter said. "This is further broken down within the action plan. The bulk of the work is in projects that buy down flood risk."
The 45-day formal public comment period for the proposed Action Plan, which is available online at watershed.la.gov/action-plan, continues until 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 29.
All comments and the state’s responses will be included in the plan the state submits to HUD for approval.
Submit your comments
The state is accepting comments online or via email, mail or fax.
Email: Public comments can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fax: Public comments can be faxed to the attention of Janice Lovett at 225.219.9605.
Mail: Public comments can be mailed to the attention of Janice Lovett:
Office of Community Development
P.O. Box 94095
Baton Rouge, LA 70804-9095