Louisiana Watershed Initiative
In August 2018, Governor John Bel Edwards launched the Louisiana Watershed Initiative in response to historic flooding events in 2016 that revealed Louisiana's high susceptibility to flooding throughout the state. Louisiana has a devastating history of flooding, with the state experiencing 16 federally declared flood- and hurricane-related disasters in the past 20 years. The Watershed Initiative is a statewide effort to reduce flood risk and increase flood resilience in Louisiana through regional coordination of floodplain management. The program aims to develop capacity at the state, regional, and local levels to respond to flood risk, to increase knowledge of flood risk throughout the state, and to implement projects that increase statewide flood resilience. The ultimate goal of the Watershed Initiative is to reduce flood risk throughout Louisiana by implementing watershed-based flood mitigation initiatives through watershed-bounded entities, known as "Watershed Regions." The Watershed Initiative consists of four funding and regional planning and capacity-building programs designed to support the development of a watershed management framework that more effectively addresses statewide flood risks. The Watershed Initiative is funded through a $1.2 billion Community Development Block Grant for Mitigation from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
In May 2018, Governor Edwards issued Executive Order (EO) JBE 18-16, which ordered the development and implementation of a watershed-based floodplain management strategy for the state of Louisiana. The EO called for several state agencies to form the Council on Watershed Management (Council) and develop a program that would support a regional approach to floodplain management. Accordingly, the Council developed the Louisiana Watershed Initiative and established eight Watershed Regions within the state that work within their regions to coordinate local governments and manage flood risk.
The remainder of this entry describes the key features and players of the Watershed Initiative and how it is being funded.
Goals and Initiatives: The ultimate goal of the Watershed Initiative is to reduce flood risk throughout Louisiana through the implementation of watershed-based flood mitigation initiatives by Watershed Regions. The Watershed Initiative is meant to foster greater communication among communities within watersheds and between local and state actors to identify and implement the most effective flood mitigation efforts.
The Watershed Initiative has three main functions:
- To create watershed-bounded entities to undertake watershed-based flood mitigation initiatives;
- To model strong leadership at the state level by adopting flood risk reduction initiatives; and
- To promote governmental consistency by adopting and integrating the watershed-based approach with existing local and state agency programs.
The Watershed Initiative is in the process of implementing these functions through four programs designed to enhance data collection, facilitate engagement with stakeholders, and support the adoption of a watershed management framework that can more effectively address statewide flood risks:
- Local and Regional Watershed Projects Grant Program: This is a project funding opportunity for local and regional projects that will address urgent flood mitigation needs identified by the eight Watershed Regions.
- State Projects Grant Program: This is a project funding opportunity for projects that are necessary to facilitate the immediate implementation of a comprehensive statewide flood mitigation strategy.
- Regional Capacity Building Grant Program: Louisiana will issue grants to Watershed Regions to build the staff capacity and technical skills necessary to develop and sustain regional watershed management and governing bodies.
- Statewide Modeling Effort: Louisiana will undertake a program to develop scientific models of major state watersheds, both coastal and inland, to assess flood risk and opportunities for flood risk reduction in order to support regional floodplain management collaboration based in science and data. This will build on the state’s data and modeling of coastal flooding and land loss through its Coastal Master Plan and support education and outreach to build resilience for both inland and coastal flooding from heavy precipitation events and other causes (like the historic 2016 flooding event that motivated the development of this initiative).
Role of the Council on Watershed Management: The Council is a collective of state agency representatives who coordinate and govern all state-level Watershed Initiative efforts.1 The Council collaborates with experts from governmental agencies, educational institutions, and the public and private sector to identify and implement the necessary components of the Watershed Initiative. As the Council implements the Watershed Initiative, Technical Advisory Groups (i.e., subject matter experts) will continue to advise the Council to ensure that the Council operates with the best available information as it pursues an integrated floodplain management approach for the state.
Role of the Eight Watershed Regions: Watershed Regions are regional entities that are tasked with making and coordinating decisions regarding land use, policy, and infrastructure to manage flood risk throughout their respective regions. Watershed Regions ensure that communities within a watershed are connected and collaborating to mitigate flood risk. Local leaders are called upon to disregard political boundaries and develop and implement long-term watershed-based flood mitigation solutions that cross local political boundaries.
Further, Watershed Regions are managing floodplains on a regional level by planning and implementing local and regional projects that address flood mitigation needs. Watershed Regions are pursuing project funding through the Watershed Projects Grant Program or through other sources.
Funding: The Watershed Initiative is primarily funded through a $1.2 billion grant of Community Development Block Grant Mitigation funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which will be used to support statewide planning, watershed modeling, and data collection, as well as to implement projects that reduce flood risk. Louisiana is also leveraging funding from additional state and federal sources to support the Watershed Initiative.2
Publication Date: August 15, 2018
- State of Louisiana
- Executive order
- Funding program
- Plans (other)
1. The Council on Watershed Management consists of the Secretaries and Executive Directors of the Office of Community Development, the Department of Transportation and Development, the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
2. Additional funds come from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Hazard Mitigation Assistance Program, HUD's Community Development Block Grant Program, Louisiana's Statewide Flood Control Program, the Scenic Rivers System Program, and the Flood Risk and Resilience Program.