Meeting eyes proactive St. John approach to natural disaster concerns

Published 12:10 am Wednesday, December 6, 2017

LAPLACE — Water retention capacities, median income housing, a West Bank community center/evacuation shelter and a multi-modal train station are proposed projects to be discussed during the fifth and final LA SAFE meeting taking place from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday at LaPlace Elementary School.

Louisiana’s Strategic Adaptations for Future Environments program advocates for community resilience, economic prosperity and better quality of life for residents by instating proactive measures for areas with natural disaster risks.

Residents, officials and other St. John the Baptist Parish stakeholders are invited to attend the final meeting to give their input on proposed projects.

Meetings have been held periodically since the program was instituted in March, according to Matt Sanders, resilience program and policy administrator for the State of Louisiana’s Office of Community Development.

Sanders said attendees have brainstormed ways to implement water retention projects that will lessen the need for long-term recovery efforts in the aftermath of storms.

The focus has been on protecting the historic areas of the Parish, finding innovative methods for flood protection and improving ease of transportation, he said.

St. John the Baptist Parish is one of six parishes selected to conduct LA Safe meetings because damage sustained from Hurricane Isaac in 2012 qualified the region as needing protective measures against natural disasters.

Sanders said St. John the Baptist Parish has seen an increase in population in relation to natural disasters occurring in other parishes, adding to the importance of forward thinking.

“We’re trying to envision what our communities will look like in relation to flood risks anticipated over time,” he said. “We monitor the population and think through places people are retreating from and moving to. That way, we can build out infrastructure and capabilities for communities expected to grow.”

St. John the Baptist Parish District VI Councilman Larry Snyder attended previous LA Safe meetings.

He said resiliency was a theme of previous meetings, as those in attendance brainstormed ways to speed up the disaster recovery process and help St. John thrive.

“It’s got a lot to do with working on a plan from both sides of the river,” Snyder said. “They talked about flood protection and coastal protection, and it really covers a large gamut of things having to do with community development.”

During previous meetings, St. John Parish residents indicated a need for a bridge or ferry system to facilitate transportation and unification of the East Bank and West Bank, according to Snyder.

Snyder said he’s looking forward to attending the final round of meetings to see which programs move forward, and he trusts LA Safe coordinators will formulate a plan of action reflecting community feedback.

“It’s important to give your input,” Snyder said, noting the meeting is an opportunity for residents to ask questions about projects.

Sanders is proud of the community involvement he’s seen at previous meetings.

St. John the Baptist Parish President Natalie Robottom, Planning and Zoning Director Alexandra Carter and a myriad of local consulting partners have been instrumental to the success of the LA Safe program, Sanders said.

Residents who wish to attend the final meeting are not required to have background knowledge on the topics. Rather, Sanders said his hope is for people to come to a quick understanding as concepts are introduced and demonstrated.

Those who wish to learn more about LA Safe can visit or call 1-800-354-9548.