More than two years after Mayor Sharon Weston Broome’s administration selected HNTB to do a stormwater management plan for East Baton Rouge Parish, the $15 million contract with the engineering firm was executed in late December, clearing the way for work to finally get underway.
That work will not involve constructing new drainage or flood control projects any time soon, however. Rather, it will entail doing a comprehensive survey of all the channels and subsurface drainage systems in the parish—data that will then be used to do hydrologic modeling.
From there, HNTB will recommend a set of projects and mitigation measures for the parish, and also identify potential sources of funding for the various projects.
“The plan will outline a capital improvement program, a list of projects on a schedule,” HNTB Vice President and Gulf Coast Deputy Office Leader Bryan Jones says. “What are the projects that need to be built? What would that cost? How do we, then, begin to implement those projects and pay for them?”
Jones says it’s too soon to say what kind of recommendations HNTB might make relative to funding sources.
One possibility, however, is an additional millage. There will also likely be suggested federal sources that could be tapped and matched with state and local funds.
The feds are already picking up the tab for the $15 million plan. FEMA, through a grant it awarded to the city-parish last May, is kicking in 75%, while block grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will cover the remaining 25%.
Challenges in identifying the 25% match for the plan is largely the reason it took so long to finally get underway.
While the plan is expected to comprise a laundry list of new drainage projects, it will also, significantly, include recommendations about ways to mitigate flooding, which might mean unpopular changes to existing building and zoning codes.
“One of the main components will be to address current ordinances and zoning regulations to consider updates that would mitigate flood risk,” Jones says. “You can only mitigate flooding so much with projects. Tough decisions will have to be made by elected officials.”
The plan is expected to take two years to complete.