East Baton Rouge officials have selected HNTB, a national engineering firm with a branch in Baton Rouge, to create a comprehensive stormwater master plan for the parish.
The move comes on the heels of the one-year anniversary of massive flooding in Baton Rouge that raised concerns over drainage and stormwater issues in the region. The plan is also being developed amid swirling questions over how coastal and low-lying regions, especially in the south, will handle increasingly dangerous weather patterns.
“The widespread flooding that occurred last year exposed the need to address current conditions as well as solutions,” says Bryan Jones, HNTB’s Gulf Coast deputy office leader.
The first step, once the city-parish negotiates a contract with the firm, will be to create a high-powered computer system that will model the region’s features and stormwater systems. Then experts will create simulations of flood events and how different solutions—things like levees, retention ponds and other flood structures—will work best.
The plan will also evaluate and create plans for future development, Jones says.
Fred Raiford, city-parish director of transportation, notes that East Baton Rouge Parish has never had a stormwater master plan. “With all the changes in weather climate and growth in the parish,” he says, “it’s time for us to have one.”
HNTB will also be helping the city-parish spend around $100 million in hazard mitigation dollars to ensure the money is used efficiently.
“Funding is a key component of this,” Jones says. “Without leveraging and maximizing all the potential funding sources that are out there, you’re not really doing due justice to the process.”
Mayor Sharon Weston Broome announced in July she would look for a firm to develop a stormwater master plan—a move in line with recommendations from her transition team. HNTB was among three finalists for the job, along with Arcadis U.S. and Sigma Consulting Group. The three companies gave oral presentations yesterday and Raiford says he will begin negotiating the contract and working with HNTB next week.
A timeline for the master plan is not clear, Jones says, but will be dependent on the data the city-parish is able to provide versus what the firm will have to generate.