With Tropical Storm Barry approaching, officials are still scrambling to secure the $3.75 million in local match funding needed to move forward with a Stormwater Master Plan.
It’s been two years since Mayor Sharon Weston Broome announced the plan, billed as an effort to prevent flooding by thoroughly reviewing Baton Rouge’s existing drainage systems, also evaluating regional drainage capacity. HNTB was awarded the contract to create a comprehensive plan and do computer modeling work.
FEMA has already approved $11.25 million for the project, covering 75% of the cost. The parish has to come up with the remaining 25% of the master plan’s $15 million price tag, which the Broome administration says it can’t afford on its own dime.
Yet now, such flood prevention efforts are becoming urgent.
“The urgency of the need means we can’t sit around until there’s a storm in the Gulf—we need to lean in, figure out a way to get to 100% and get it done,” U.S. Rep. Garret Graves says in an emailed statement, adding his office recently locked in $3 billion in new federal flood protection funding for the state. “We need to get these funds invested in flood protection yesterday.”
Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Kelvin Hill previously told Daily Report he believed the feds could pay for the entire project, then citing U.S. Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grant funds the feds had approved as a local match for the state.
At the time, however, HUD hadn’t issued the rules detailing how the funds can be spent, slowing the process—a status, says Hill, that remains unchanged, though he still thinks it’s likely they’ll fund the effort.
“I’m told it’s coming, but there’s still nothing official,” Hill said Thursday. “Our sense of urgency has never changed. We started working on the master plan before we even had any funding because of the urgency.”
In the meantime, Gov. John Bel Edwards has requested a Federal Declaration of Emergency in advance of the storm, asking for the state to receive supplementary federal resources.