Hazardous mitigation funds heading to Iberville Parish, but how far will the money go?

Staff Report

The Iberville Parish Government is awaiting federal guidance on how it can use its share of Hazardous Grant Mitigation Program funds for recovery from last year’s hurricanes and severe flooding.

Iberville Parish will receive hazardous mitigation funds that could help areas such as St. Gabriel and the Bayou Sorrel/Bayou Pigeon area after severe flooding in 2021.

Iberville was one of 33 parishes to receive funds from a $100 million federal relief package. The HGMP funding will support the mitigation projects in the parishes for work related to the severe winter event in February 2021, the May 2021 flooding events and Hurricane Ida.

Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso presented the proposal to the Iberville Parish Council during its regular meeting Feb. 15.

“It’s not cash on hand,” he said. “They have criteria for what it could be used for to lessen the risk hazard mitigation, ranging from the lifting of homes to buyouts.”

The goal of the program funding is to reduce or eliminate long-term risk by lessening the impact of a disaster.

Examples would include residential elevation, as well as reconstruction or acquisition of flood-prone structures.

Ourso said he plans to find out more in terms of what the parish can do with the acquisition of the funds.

While he welcomes any funding help for the parish, he warned that the money may not go very far.

“It sounds like a lot of money, but it’s not – especially if you have repetitive loss on residences that flood,” Ourso said.

He speculates -- but emphasizes that he’s not certain – that the residential dwellings that have endured repetitive loss may require elevation.

Elevation is an expensive process, Ourso said.

“It could cost $100,000 or more, and it may require a 20 percent match from the homeowner,” he said. “So, that $20,000 the homeowner would have to put up. When you look at it that way, you probably can’t do more than 10 houses. The $1.9 million does not go far.”

He said he would leave it the discretion of the Parish Council, and he will see how it would work once the receives the federal guidance.

“I’ll present it to them, see how they feel comfortable spending them money and see how long it takes to spend the money,” Ourso said.

The funding comes on the heels of one of the worst years in recent memory for flooding in Iberville Parish.

The area along the St. Gabriel Civic Center and MSA-East became unnavigable during a five-day rain event that brought more than 13 inches of rain to the area.

Rain events last May brought severe flooding to areas throughout the parish. The hardest hit areas included Bayou Pigeon, Bayou Sorrel, and St. Gabriel – all of which have endured severe flooding on multiple occasions over the years.

The goal of the program is to reduce or eliminate long-term risk to life and property by lessening the impact of a disaster. Other examples of mitigation work converting land to green space, localized drainage improvements, safe room construction, wind retrofit of structures and emergency power for critical facilities.

Hazard mitigation is the only phase of emergency management specifically dedicated to breaking the cycle of damage, reconstruction and repeat damage.

“I am proud of our work with our state, local and federal partners in securing this funding,” said Gov. Edwards. “It is critically important that we look for ways to speed up recovery from these four recent events while using HMGP funds to minimize the impacts of future events.” 

Mitigation plays an equally important role alongside recovery, said Casey Tingle, Director of the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

“HMGP funding will be used to improve our critical infrastructure and make it more resilient,” he said.  “I appreciate the hard work of our GOHSEP staff, FEMA Region 6 and our local partners in making this possible.”

Here are the funding amounts for parishes in the surrounding area:

  • Ascension, $2,574,573
  • East Baton Rouge, $2,298,401
  • Pointe Coupee, $1,575,092
  • St. Martin, $1,634,799
  • West Baton Rouge, $1,768,265