HNTB Vice President Bryan Jones and senior project manager Melissa Kennedy have been making their way around Baton Rouge events, outlining plans and updates on East Baton Rouge Parish’s Stormwater Master Plan to garner public support.
Today’s monthly luncheon of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber offered one more such opportunity.
The $15 million plan seeks to identify local flood-related risks and vulnerabilities and mitigate those risks through capital improvement projects and recommended policy solutions. HNTB did not just evaluate the 2016 or May 2021 flood when coming up with the plan, Kennedy said at the luncheon, but a large range of flood events.
Kennedy outlined the three main components of the master plan: projects, policies and funding. The projects umbrella includes all data, models and simulation collected. The policies component comprises floodplain management, water quality, drainage and design. The funding and financing component includes federal, state and local money.
Data collection concluded this spring, and HNTB will finish modeling its assessments by October.
The models have three parts, Kennedy says. The first, a regional model, is used for flood mapping, long-term planning and evaluating large storm events like the ones in 2016 and this May. The second is a watershed level model, which shows how flooding in EBR works on a neighborhood level. The third evaluates the underground stormwater system.
These models will go to the parish for evaluation, Kennedy says, but the public may not be able to view them because specific programs are needed to access the models.
HNTB currently has eight hazard mitigation projects and three watershed projects approved and funded, Kennedy says. The parish has also approved $20 million for maintenance projects that include cleaning pipe systems and removing constrictions and obstructions in ditches.
Projects will be carried out according to their cost benefit analysis, Kennedy says, which will look at funding, regional collaborations and stakeholder and public input.
The plan is funded from an $86 million FEMA grant that Baton Rouge received after the 2016 flood, however, to make sure the plan is enacted, funds are still needed from the federal, state and local levels to pay for development and ongoing maintenance of the plan’s projects.
Minimum slab elevations, filling in the floodplain and development pressure around sensitive corridors are issues that are still being evaluated, Kennedy says. HNTB is not looking at or recommending pausing new developments, she says, but is evaluating what should be developed on floodplains and providing recommendations.