Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Gulf Coast, Mississippi River cities eager to finance floods

scheduled tribe. LOUIS ( Associated Press) — When Hurricane Ida struck last summer, a tornado overwhelmed a levee and swept through Ted Falgout’s coastal Louisiana home, destroying his furniture and lovely framed photos of his twin sons at school. Kissing her on the first day, again when he graduated high school.

“That water was probably 60% mud,” said Falgout, who is hoping for relief for his community in Larose, about 30 miles southwest of New Orleans.

As climate change makes hurricanes stronger and wetter and hurricanes grow, cities across the Louisiana coast and Mississippi River are hoping President Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure package will help strengthen locks, levees and other flood protections. The badly needed funds will be available for But community groups and advocates fear small towns will struggle to navigate the maze of government programs and will miss out on a rare opportunity to be protected from rising water and heavy rains.

“I think agencies are still figuring out a lot of this,” said Colin Wellenkamp, ​​executive director of the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative, which advocates for communities along the river.

While many areas of the country are at risk of flooding, the Louisiana Coast has long been particularly vulnerable and Upper Mississippi is part of an area where flood severity is increasing faster than any other region in the country.

La Crosse, Wisconsin is one of the cities trying to figure out how to benefit as the infrastructure fund begins.

SEH’s Brad Wozniak said the city’s embankments were built after devastating floods in 1965 and did not meet federal standards that would help lower insurance rates and more flood protection costs for residents. Will make it easier to fix your homes without having to. A flood planning consultant for the city.

He said upgrading the levees would be so expensive that it was difficult for the city to know how to begin.

“But with this potential infrastructure bill funding, that’s what I keep telling them – don’t rule out anything just yet,” Wozniak said, noting that this could be a chance to pay for the initial appraisal for the project. Is.

Some advocates want agencies to make it easier for communities to learn about funding opportunities and ensure that simple applications from smaller cities will be able to compete against more sophisticated proposals from wealthier cities. They also want more clarity on how the Biden administration considers factors such as economic and environmental inequality in its funding decisions.

The Biden administration is asking states to make climate resilience a part of their long-term plan and encourage projects that address flood risk factors. It tapped former New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu to help coordinate implementation of the law and outreach to communities

“There is now a need for a concerted effort by the administration and the federal government to get states and territories involved,” said Forbes Tompkins, a flood policy expert at the Pew Charitable Trusts.

The Environmental Protection Agency also said it would provide aid to disadvantaged areas and that states have funds to help small communities get funding for drinking and wastewater projects. Rural communities are also getting special guidance on harnessing money.

But further complicating the scramble for funding is the debate about the best practices for flood prevention. In addition to protections such as levees and floodgates, Congress directed the Army Corps to more seriously consider natural solutions such as the restoration of wetlands.

Olivia Dorothy of conservation group American Rivers said wetlands help absorb water before it reaches communities while restoring wildlife habitat, recharging groundwater and providing more green space.

A levy breached in northwest Missouri on the Missouri River after floods in 2019, for example, moved the levy back to create more than 1,000 acres of floodplain and additional wetlands.

Dorothy said there is a need for more natural protection, especially with the Mississippi.

In Louisiana, Larose is among the small communities that were lucky enough to benefit from early funding from infrastructure legislation because of a long-running project in a wider area.

In January, the Army Corps allocated $379 million to continue work on a series of locks, levees and other structures that will help protect 150,000 residents in coastal Louisiana. Once completed, local officials said the Morganza-to-the-Gulf project would likely protect Falgout’s home from another storm like Ida.

For now, Falgout and his wife are staying in their boathouse while their house is being renovated. The property had survived floods in the past, but Falgout said the shrinking Louisiana coast was making it more vulnerable.

“It would be a shame to walk away,” he said.

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