(TNS) - More than 145,000 homes in Louisiana were ravaged by floods in 2016 which caused more than $10 billion in damage, state officials said.
In the wake of such devastation, state and local representatives gathered in Gray on Tuesday to take part in an eight-stop statewide listening tour to gather input and share information on the most effective ways to combat flooding in communities like Lafourche and Terrebonne.
"This is our fifth in a series of engagement events across the state," said state Emergency Preparedness Deputy Director Casey Tingle, who helped organize Tuesday's all-day meeting. "The purpose of these events is to provide a forum to show what we hope to accomplish."
Although the workshop was tailored to emergency-response, government and planning officials, it was open to the public as well.
Rather than to throw money at the flooding problem, one of the program's goals is to use the best science and data available to assess flood risk, then use that information to plan a more regional approach to dealing with it.
"From the state's perspective, we're ultimately going to have some funding attached to this to be able to do some important things," Tingle said. "But we want to start from the basis of what the best available data is telling us. How do we make the right investments as opposed to just spending money?"
The workshop included an overview of data that was specifically tailored to Lafourche and Terrebonne, state Resilience Planning Manager Alex Carter said.
Because floodwater has no political affiliation, collaboration and teamwork are crucial to address the statewide problem, Carter said.
"There is a need for coordinated decision-making that depoliticizes flood risk," said Carter, who is helping to launch a program called the Louisiana Watershed Initiative. "That's part of what this initiative is trying to accomplish. We want to do that, but we make sure we're stopping all over the state to get the right fit for each regional community because they're not all the same. We need to be on the same page, working should-to-shoulder."
State officials are working to empower local jurisdictions and communities to establish regional, long-term solutions that cross political boundaries, Tingle said.
"A number of communities have had ideas of what they'd like to invest in, but we need a way to evaluate those potential projects," Tingle said. "We also want to look at opportunities to leave in place a framework for how communities deal with these issues over time. It's more than just a conversation based on political boundaries. It needs to be people making collaborative decisions."
-- Staff Writer Dan Copp can be reached at 857-2202 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter@DanVCopp.
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