Assessing Flooding and Hydrodynamics for Community Preparedness and Revitalization

Lafayette, Louisiana

Featured image for the project, Assessing Flooding and Hydrodynamics for Community Preparedness and Revitalization

Photo courtesy of Cindi Meche

Description

Between August 12 and August 22 of 2016, heavy flooding devastated a large swath of southern Louisiana.  Entire homes and businesses were engulfed by the rising waters, leading to widespread damages and 13 fatalities.  Many of the flood victims across Southern Louisiana lacked flood insurance at the time, prompting a massive federal disaster response by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).  The August floods are considered one of the nation’s costliest natural disasters since 1978.  The event forced thousands of Louisianians into temporary shelters with close to 110,000 people registering for FEMA assistance.  Since August 2016, additional floods have occurred in 2017 in and around Lafayette Parish.  Flood survivors express concern and fear over an uptick in flood events since August 2016.

In February 2018, the Acadiana Planning Commission, which includes Lafayette Parish, voted to spend $25 million in federal funds on nine regional drainage projects, including four in Lafayette Parish, totaling $11 million. The projects will involve the cleaning, excavating and widening of retention ponds and coulees—streambeds or ravines typically dry during the summer that surge during rainy periods.  In February 2018, the City of Lafayette also approved a number of drainage channel cleaning projects that will utilize $9 million from a Consolidated Government surplus.

In November of 2017, the group Lafayette Parish Flood Forum was established to organize residents of Lafayette Parish around the issue of flooding, mobilize people to speak out and take action to address flooding issues, and overcome fear surrounding the risk of new flooding.  The group’s Facebook page has over 80 followers.  Lafayette Parish Flood Forum would like to obtain a better understanding of the causes of flooding in their parish.  The flood group would like to work with a dedicated hydrologist to synthesize the available reports and develop next steps or proposed solutions. Lafayette Parish Flood Forum will use their enhanced understanding to have productive interactions with local decision-makers.

This project has been conceived and designed in partnership with community leaders at Lafayette Parish Flood Forum and Flood Forum USA.

Project Team

Community Leads

Melanie Brevis is the leader of the Lafayette Parish Flood Forum in Lafayette, LA. Originally from Maryland, she and her family have lived in Lafayette for only three years but have already witnessed the devastating impact of multiple floods on the region. A former Peace Corps volunteer, non-profit coordinator and librarian, Melanie is passionate about community organizing and grass-roots work. She is dedicated to keeping the flooding crisis a priority for local government and ensuring that flood survivors have a voice.

 

Scientific Liaison

Eric White, P.E., is a Research Engineer for The Water Institute of the Gulf, where he works primarily with the development, integration, and application of hydrologic, hydraulic, and landscape models to assess restoration and engineering project alternatives and design optimization. He is a licensed Professional Engineer with 11 years of experience in the field of hydrologic and hydraulic modeling. Prior to joining the Institute, White worked as an Engineering Specialist for the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD), where he developed detailed hydraulic models of basement and surface flooding within Philadelphia to quantify flood damages and examine the efficacy and cost/benefit of numerous flood reduction and mitigation design projects. Additional responsibilities at PWD included the hydraulic modeling and design of large-scale capital improvement projects. White has also worked as a hydrologic modeler for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Research Service and as a consulting engineer for URS Corporation.

Collaborating Organization(s)

This project is part of one of TEXs’ new cohorts.  TEX has partnered with Flood Forum USA which supports grassroots flood groups across the country by helping them develop strategies for a sustainable future.  TEX is working with ten of their grassroots groups to connect them with scientists who can help them better characterize neighborhood-level flood risks and work effectively with local decision makers to mitigate those risks.