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Parish shares annual update on flood protection efforts

LAPLACE — Each year, St. John the Baptist Parish provides updates on local flood mitigation and protection efforts. As several flood protection projects get underway, one major accomplishment this year was that the Parish was upgraded from a Class 8 to a Class 7 in the National Flood Insurance Community Rating System Program in Spring 2021, allowing residents to receive a discount on their flood insurance premiums.

Parish President Jaclyn Hotard said, “Flood protection remains my top priority. As we move forward with construction of the West Shore Levee project, my team and I continue to work on additional measures to reduce risk and flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program.”

As part of the FLOAT Multi-Jurisdictional Program for Public Information, St. John Parish works to inform residents, business owners and local leaders about their risk of flooding and strategies that can reduce the risk.

In a November 2020 meeting via Zoom, St. John was represented by CRS coordinator Phyl Cornman, Planning and Zoning representative Devin Foil, resident/insurance agent Bryan Castillo, resident/realtor Robin Franks, and residents Nina Gassen, Ivy Mathieu and Michael St. Martin. Cornman and Foil summarized the education and outreach activities in St. John Parish, sharing information on progress with the LA SAFE flood reduction project, green infrastructure projects, clean streets programs and more.

Another aspect of the Community Rating System Program is the Parish Hazard Mitigation Plan, which was formed in 2016 as an appendix to the Emergency Management Operations procedures. Progress was made in several areas of the Hazard Mitigation Plan in 2020, and the following updates were outlined in the 2020 Annual Report prepared by CRS Coordinator Phyl Cornman.

  • Drainage improvement

Phase two of the Reserve Drainage Project, completed in 2020, included the installation of a new concrete culvert system in Reserve. Funded through a FEMA/GOHSEP Hazard Mitigation Grant from Gustav/Ike, this project encompassed Terrance Street, W. Eighth Street, Marmillian Loop, Toni Drive, West Second Street, West Fourth Street, Cornland Drive and Hart Drive, all of which were prone to flooding.

St. John Parish looks forward to breaking ground this year on the LA SAFE Airline and Main Complete Streets project, which will install green infrastructure and bioswales for improved drainage. This project is intended to direct economic development to less flood prone areas of St. John Parish with beautification and water retention features.

Preliminary design work began on the RESTORE Belle Terre Complete Streets project, which will also enhance drainage with green infrastructure and bioswales.

  • Implementation of new mitigation initiatives

Federal and state partners help local government coordinate preparedness through grants. The Army Corps of Engineers is a federal partner working on the continued design and construction of the critical West Shore Lake Pontchartrain Levee Project. St. John Parish is also continuing design work on the Lake Pontchartrain Shoreline Protection project, which involves construction of a breakwater along the lake’s shoreline for increased storm surge protection.

The Low Impact Development Program was completed in 2020 with implementation of new stormwater regulations for development and training materials. The Parish is taking steps to research new grant funding sources to develop new mitigation concepts for parish-wide drainage.

  • Improvement of public notification system

The implementation of the Test 2 Notification system has streamlined communication during natural disasters and other emergencies. This effort was funded by FEMA.

  • Mitigation education and public outreach

Parish officials believe an informed public is more adept to respond and protect themselves during emergencies. Parish President Jaclyn Hotard initiated a monthly “West Shore Wednesday” update via Facebook Live to keep residents abreast of levee progress. The Parish also performs annual outreach in-person and online to educate the public on flood risks, insurance rates and the benefits of mitigation.

  • Elevation/ acquisition projects

St. John Parish worked with FEMA to elevate 22 homes in the parish. The elevations were completed in 2020.

  • Community rating system (CRS)

St. John was upgraded to a Class 7 rating in 2020, which provides residents with an additional 5% discount on annual flood insurance premiums. With this change, property owners in flood zones now save 15% on premiums.

  • Safe room construction

Located adjacent to the Emergency Operations Center at 1801 W. Airline Highway in LaPlace, a safe room facility was completed in 2020 to provide protection against powerful winds, wind-borne debris, flooding and loss of power. The safe room was funded by HMGP funds, the 2015 bond issue and various parish budgets, including 911 communications and the Office of Fire Services.

  • Generator installation for governmental buildings and critical facilities

HMGP funding will allow generators to be installed in governmental buildings and critical facilities, providing a reliable source of power for essential operations. The Parish is working toward purchasing new portable generators through a grant from FEMA, as well as three emergency generators for use at sewer facilities.

 

St. John Parish, along with UNO-CHART, also conducted a Repetitive Loss Area Analysis for the Cambridge Subdivision in 2013 to find ways to reduce flood risk for repetitive loss properties. The Parish releases a progress report for the Repetitive Loss Area Analysis each year.

Properties that have continuously flooded account for only 1.3% of flood insurance policies yet have cost more than $2 billion in Louisiana, accounting for nearly ¼ of the claim payments. Mitigating risk for these repetitive loss properties will help the National Flood Insurance Program and FEMA reduce flood insurance costs for everyone in the community.

St. John officials are working to improve drainage in this area with the ongoing dredging of the Vicknair Canal.