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Hazard Mitigation Plan updates are in progress

LAPLACE — Representatives from several agencies participated in the first public meeting to update St. John the Baptist Parish’s Hazard Mitigation Plan. This plan is required to be updated every five years in order for the Parish to maintain eligibility for FEMA hazard mitigation funding.

The first public meeting, held virtually on August 25, included an assessment of the hazards that could impact the parish. Upcoming meetings will discuss problems the parish faces, goals for hazard mitigation and a review of ongoing activities. In the final meeting, participants will review a draft of the plan. Public feedback is welcomed throughout the process.

Drought, expansive soil, flooding, thunderstorms, tornadoes, tropical cyclones and winter storms were identified as hazards.

Rene Pastorek, director of Planning and Zoning for St. John Parish, said expansive soil is a hazard that will greatly impact St. John’s mitigation efforts moving forward.

“It’s really important for the parish with the levee coming in,” Pastorek said, noting that anytime the natural wetlands are closed off to a degree, it can have a greater impact on how soil expands when wet and contracts when dry. This presents a hazard to structures built on expansive soils.

Pastorek said the Planning and Zoning Department is looking for ways to mitigate that impact with future projects.

The Hazard Mitigation Plan is being updated by Louisiana State University’s Stephenson Disaster Management Institute, and the completed plan is due by Oct. 20, 2021.

The plan also allows St. John Parish to earn points in the Community Rating System, which gives residents discounts on flood insurance premiums. St. John is currently a Class 7, allowing for a 15% premium reduction in the special flood hazard area and a 5% reduction in the non-special flood area.

Meetings will be held at 2 p.m. on Wednesdays. Please call the St. John Planning and Zoning Office at 985-651-5565 for more information. A public opinion survey is available at www.surveymonkey.com/r/stjohnthebaptisthm2021.

Agencies represented during the meeting included Friends of the Manchac Greenway, Pontchartrain Conservancy, UNO-Chart (Research center at the University of New Orleans), the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, South Central Planning, the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, the Watershed Initiative, the Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance, QHotels, St. John Planning and Zoning and the St. John Coastal Advisory Committee.