The Louisiana Watershed Initiative (LWI) is a holistic approach to watershed management, that goes beyond conventional mitigation measures and incorporates nature-based solutions. The historic floods of 2016 exposed numerous issues with the way the state has handled flood management in the past, leading to an investigation of how Louisiana prepares for intense storm events. In response to this investigation, Gov. John Bel Edwards launched LWI. The Louisiana Watershed Initiative was founded in 2018 with a focus on establishing a regionalized approach to flood risk mitigation throughout the state. After its founding, the federal government announced that Louisiana would receive a $1.2 billion flood mitigation grant to be distributed to various communities via the Louisiana Watershed Initiative.
The program represents a $100 million project funding opportunity for eligible local and regional projects that will address immediate flood mitigation needs. As a high-risk area, East Baton Rouge Parish is in the process of submitting five proposed projects to the Louisiana Watershed Initiative for funding assistance. Many of these projects encompass areas that were greatly affected by the 2016 flooding that show benefit to areas exceeding that footprint and neighboring parishes. It is important to note that only 2 of the projects have been approved, the others are in the application phase, meaning that they have not been approved for funding at this time. Please see below for brief project descriptions.
Bayou Duplantier is a tributary within the Ward Creek watershed. Located near Louisiana State University, it captures runoff from highly developed areas and carries it downstream to Dawson Creek and then into Ward Creek. As development increases throughout the area, flood storage and infiltration opportunities are greatly reduced, contributing to an added strain on Bayou Duplantier and downstream areas as it attempts to carry more floodwaters. This strain results in an increased risk that surrounding areas will experience catastrophic flooding during an intense rain event.
This project has been APPROVED. It includes the acquisition of approximately 200 acres of natural forested floodplain land along the Bayou Duplantier Channel as shown in the attachment. This extends from near the downstream end of the LSU Lakes to the confluence with Ward Creek. The project will also include channel clearing of approximately 2 miles to remove restrictions. The acquisition of the property will prevent future development in this area and help with flood risk mitigation of the adjacent developed areas. The proposed project will preserve some of the existing floodplain as well as the natural channel conveyance path by preventing development in that area. This project will preserve the land’s existing wildlife habitat and provide possible future environmental recreational opportunities. The Parish will be responsible for maintaining the natural floodplain which will be limited to inspection and channel clearing as necessary to remove constrictions. The project is estimated to cost $8.4M and will take approximately 1 year to complete.
Ward Creek is the main tributary in the Ward Creek Watershed and carries stormwater from developed areas downstream to Bayou Manchac. At its highly developed downstream location, Ward Creek is at risk of restricting upstream channel flows, resulting in flooding of the surrounding area. If unchecked, the future development of the area will increase flooding upstream of the project location.
This project has been APPROVED. The Parish proposes purchasing approximately 140 acres of land along Ward Creek as an effort to preserve the floodplain and conveyance area of the channel. The acquisition of the property will prevent future development of this area and provide flood risk mitigation for adjacent developed areas. The land acquisition would provide East Baton Rouge Parish with security that the existing wetlands and floodplain will remain intact, prevent development in the floodplain and thereby mitigate potential increased risk of flooding throughout the area. Adjacent to BREC’s Airline Highway Park, the project has the potential to tie into future park improvements that are also intended to address mitigation needs of the Parish. The estimate cost is $5.7M and will take 1 year to complete.
Dawson Creek is a tributary within the Ward Creek Watershed. Beginning north of I-10, it joins with Bayou Duplantier and captures runoff from highly developed areas and carries it downstream to Ward Creek. Currently, Dawson Creek experiences channel overtopping, resulting in road closures and structural flooding during intense rain events throughout the area.
To mitigate this increased risk, East Baton Rouge Parish is submitting an application to re-shape approximately 3 miles of the Dawson Creek channel (area 3), eliminating channel obstructions to increase channel flow capacity and reduce water surface elevations. Additionally, the Parish plans to construct a detention basin (area 1 and 2) where Dawson Creek joins with Bayou Duplantier. This detention area will provide additional flood storage capacity that will ensure there are no negative downstream impacts as a result of increased stream conveyance.
Jones Creek is the main tributary within its watershed. Extending from north of Florida Blvd, it captures runoff from highly developed areas and carrying them downstream to the Amite River. Currently, Jones Creek experiences overtopping, resulting in road closures and structural flooding during intense rain events throughout the area.
This project has been APPROVED. East Baton Rouge Parish is proposing to purchase approximately 65 acres of undeveloped land at the old Sherwood Forest Golf Course with the intention of utilizing it for detention and secondarily as a park area. The detention space will allow for the Parish to provide approximately 210,000 cubic yards of storage volume for runoff, therefore reducing flood levels throughout the area. Additionally, the park area will provide recreational and educational opportunities to area residents. While no plans are currently in place, the detention area provides the opportunity for the Parish to construct outdoor fields, walking trails, or even community gardens.
East Baton Rouge Parish has identified two bridge locations in the northern areas of East Baton Rouge Parish that have experienced flood induced erosion damages over time to the point that neither bridge is operable. The first bridge is located on Alphonse Forbes Road over Sandy Creek and the second is located on Old Baker Road over South Canal. In their current state, both bridges have been closed due to safety concerns. East Baton Rouge Parish, through the funding application is proposing to replace both bridges, reinforcing the channel banks and ensuring both channels remain clear of obstructions. Additionally, replacement will provide renewed access to these bridges, as both are currently closed to traffic.