For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
In easier terms – every move made has a consequence, good or bad, as the result. Even just standing still and doing nothing has its own set of consequences.
Example? A building is burning around you and, by just standing there, you have sentenced yourself to die. Running out, of course, saves your life. Either way, there’s a consequence and reaction to your efforts.
Weighing the consequences of actions has become a very serious job that sits on the shoulders of Denham Springs and Walker’s flood plain managers. All of them have to analyze the Community Rating System – a guideline for municipalities to help them earn points toward lower flood insurance – and determine which can be done immediately, which can be done in the future, and which just … aren’t going to happen.
Projects in option 1 are, for the most part, public outreach. They’re smart ways to earn points because they are inherently easy and don’t cross a line of “perhaps this is affecting property rights.” For instance, the City of Denham Springs affixed markers on storm drains throughout the city with the Rotary Club of Livingston Parish, Livingston Parish Young Professionals, and some local volunteers.
The markers asked residents not drop trash, grass, and chemicals down the storm drains as they end up blocking them or flowing out into the waterways. Trash backing up culverts was on full display in Denham Springs on Saturday after all those heavy rains, so it’s a problem to be addressed.
Walker and Denham Springs both run advertisements for hurricane preparedness in The News (free of cost).
Option 2 are projects that the city can affect on their own buildings and infrastructure. For Denham Springs specifically, these include studies done by LSU hydrology, agriculture, and engineering students on how to change downtown to be more pedestrian friendly and, more importantly, drain properly.
These earn points in the CRS system, which raise levels from 10 down to 1, offering a 5 percent discount on flood insurance per level.
The CRS itself is an incentive program for municipalities to expand their flood plain management to match FEMA guidelines. But, that’s an important piece of the puzzle – FEMA guidelines. They may or may not take into account personal homeowner rights or historical data, more so what’s important – right here and now – to try and fix a problem.
And that pursuit of cheaper insurance rates, as well as the effect on development, is what has caused issues at the Parish Council as of late over the new buzz phrase – dirt fill. Applying a maximum level of dirt fill will earn CRS points, true, and filling in a flood plain with more dirt is hazardous.
However, many homes have already been raised with dirt – businesses too – what do we do with those? Can we allow lots adjacent to homes that have already been put on top of dirt fill to match that fill? Isn’t that fair?
These questions are reasons the dirt fill ordinance has returned to committee – there are loads of unintended consequences wrapped within each of these third options in the CRS, which affect people all the same.
But there are parts of the CRS that are important – a bare minimum that has to be met to be compliant, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with the bare minimum requirements. They’re not encroaching on home ownership and they’re not asking for more than what has been required for at least three years.
J. McHugh David is editor and publisher of the Livingston Parish News.