Following the Great Floods of 2016, Governor John Bel Edwards issued an executive order to establish the Council on Watershed Management which began to develop the Louisiana Watershed Initiative (LWI), a statewide floodplain management program based on watersheds as opposed to the political and jurisdictional boundaries. Since flooding is closely tied to land use, policy, and infrastructure decisions among multiple governing authorities, the goal of the LWI is to facilitate coordination across state agencies and among local communities to develop regional solutions that follow watershed boundaries, reduce flood risk and build resilience across Louisiana. The LWI includes subject matter experts from all levels of government, universities, and the private sector to build a foundation of data, projects, policies, and standards to guide this program. The state of Louisiana is making a massive initial investment of over $1.2B in the Louisiana Watershed Initiative with US HUD Community Development Block Grant –Mitigation (CDBG-MIT) dollars to fund project design and construction, regional capacity building, policy improvements, and watershed planning.
CSRS is serving as the primary program manager for the development of regional watershed coalitions and plans and for the management of the CDBG-MIT grant. To achieve this, CSRS is providing technical assistance to the State of Louisiana, planning and capacity-building support to local and regional leaders, and co-designing the program infrastructure with the LWI staff. CSRS is developing technical resources to help local stakeholders understand their flood risk, while creating a framework for regional coalition building for watershed management and planning. CSRS is also providing the supportive services necessary to implement the LWI. CSRS is responsible for ensuring the accuracy, timeliness, and completion of all tasks under this contract.
The Louisiana Watershed Initiative was the first CDBG-MIT-funded program to launch in the United States. The Notice of Funding Availability (application) for the first round of project funding has opened and capacity-building grants have been made to regional entities to begin the development of regional watershed management.
Under the COVID-19 emergency, the program has had to shift from the many in-person meetings that were planned to a remote meeting format. CSRS is supporting local stakeholders to make this adjustment and continue their work on regional watershed management despite this challenge.