Editor’s note: Since its creation, Denham Strong has been working on projects to help Denham Springs recover from the August 2016 flood. In the first of three parts, The News looks at the progress of flood recovery projects in 2018.

DENHAM SPRINGS -- Projects completed, projects underway, and projects in the future.

Denham Strong’s progress report for 2018 contains all three from the volunteer group working to help Denham Springs continue its recovery from the Great Flood of 2016, but also improve life in the city.

“We got a lot done,” said Jeannette Clark, the city’s community recovery coordinator on Friday.

Clark delivered the progress report on Monday to the Denham Springs City Council at its meeting. The report broke down project into three areas: flood recovery, disaster resiliency and community development.

Under each category are issues broke to light by public meetings seeking what city residents thought needed to be addressed or would like to see in their community.

A total of 47 accomplishments were listed that completed projects or helped more projects forward. There were 25 items listed under “ongoing” that are now underway to help projects more forward. Finally, 27 items were listed under “future goals,” steps or actions that will come up in the future as the ongoing list is achieved.  

“We feel there has been a lot of progress. It’s not all tangible,” Clark said. “You can’t see some of it, but progress has been made on many projects.”

Completing some projects involve deciding what needs to be done, drawing up a plan to achieve that, then seeking the funding to pay for it, Clark said.

“People want to put a timeline (on projects), but sometimes we don’t know the exact timeline,” she said. “We can tell you what we think is going to happen.”

One example is three public meetings – the first in March – are planned to get the public’s ideas on a bike and pedestrian path from the Spring Park area through the Historic District. 

A master plan then would be developed from those ideas that would be ready by October, she said. Then comes securing the funding.

Another example of a long-term project is establishing an Emergency Operations Center in City Hall.

“The Emergency Operations Center work won’t begin next year,” Clark said. “They have to do the renovations to City Hall first.”

The city has a mobile command center vehicle at the Police Station, but the goal is to have a larger space in a permanent location.

“We will have everybody in one place so we will know what’s going on, Clark said.

Progress has been made on several fronts under flood recovery, according to the report.

A meeting was held for property owners who have suffered repetitive loss and severe repetitive loss to inform them  about the annual FEMA Hazard Mitigation Assistance (HMA) program.

Ten city residents were helped to fill out the applications, eight to have their homes elevated and two to sell their homes and move, with the property to be turned into green space.

“We should know in May,” about if the applications will be accepted, Clark said.

They were sent to the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP), which will forward it to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which oversees the program.

The city also cleared debris from canals and catch basins and a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed in March between Denham Springs and Gravity Drainage District 1 to help clean canals in the city.

The drainage district also installed 11 stream gauges that will monitor water levels in its coverage area and end the information electronically to the district help detect possible drainage problems. The information will be shared with the city.

Two drainage projects were submitted through Livingston Parish for FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) for Jason Drive and Woodcrest to increase the capacity of cross drains.

Under stormwater management, an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Building Blocks Workshop was completed, linking land use to water quality. A proposal was submitted to Silver Jackets to develop green infrastructure alternatives and document locations for future implementation to build on EPA Building Blocks Workshop.

Ongoing projects include soliciting volunteers to locate and mark storm drains, while funding will be sought to mitigate repetitive loss incidents and drainage projects, formalize a buy-out plan in defined areas to mitigate repetitive flood loss and support LSU studies by two engineering and architecture classes on the hydrology of Long Slash Branch and its connection with the Historic District.

Future goals include getting Denham Springs a Community Rating System (CRS) Class 7 rating, which would mean a 15 percent discount in flood insurance rates. The city has a Class 8, which equals a 10 percent discount on flood insurance.

The group is working with Drainage District 1 to submit a proposal to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for its Assistance to States program for a drainage master plan and mapping stormwater infrastructure for the city Geographic Information System (GIS).

Another goal is to work with Steve Villavaso and the Capital Region Planning Commission (CRPC) on updating stormwater ordinances.

To improve blighted properties, Denham Strong surveyed residential structures within the city for recovery status with the ESRI Collector application provided by Environmental Science Services, Inc.

An ongoing project is updating a blight survey to track the status of flood recovery and identify problems as well as assist property owners.

The group applied but did not receive a Firefighter Assistance Grant from FEMA to purchase a GIS server to gather ongoing construction information throughout the city.

To help with utility resilience, FEMA will provide funding for repair and mitigation projects to protect city utilities.

A proposal was submitted to the federal States’ Economic Development Assistance Program (SEDAP) to purchase four bypass pumps for sewer lift stations.

The grant was not funded because bypass pumps were considered to be the same as generators, the report said, but Denham Strong will continue to seek funding for bypass pumps.

Another proposal was submitted to the Community Water Enrichment Fund (CWEF) for water line expansion projects to increase capacity to residents

A future project is creating a Capital Improvement Plan to coincide with the annual budget and incorporate Community Rating System activity.

To protect critical city facilities, proposals were submitted through Livingston Parish for HMGP funding to retrofit the Police and Fire departments and build a flood wall to protect the Police Station from future flooding.

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