Gulf of Mexico
Carlos Ortega, a worker with Clesi Foundations, moves support wood at a house being raised in Harvey in August 2011. (Photo by Susan Poag, The Times-Picayune archive)

Project to raise homes, move families in Southwest Coastal Louisiana moves forward

A study to determine which homes in Southwest Coastal Louisiana will qualify for voluntary relocation or elevation recently received funding after much back-and-forth between parish officials and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

While financing for the study only accounts for a small chunk of the overall project, it represents the first time a non-structural project within the state’s coastal master plan has been given funding, said Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority of Louisiana Board Chairman Chip Kline. Flood proofing businesses, home elevations and voluntary home acquisitions are all considered non-structural measures. The most recent version of the 50-year plan estimates 26,569 homes and businesses across Louisiana will be eligible for help, at a cost of more than $6 billion.

But finding money for non-structural projects has proven difficult, Kline said. Many of the pots of money the state uses to pay for coastal projects have restrictions that only allow the money to be used for building levees or restoring coastal marsh.

“We would have to really look into those current funding streams to reallocate them for non-structural,” he said. “So making a push with the feds and even within the state legislature to earmark or to allocate more for the non-structure has got to be a priority for us the next several years.”

Several advocacy groups have pointed out that non-structural projects are a quick and cost-effective way to reduce flood risk. Yet, progress on those projects has been slow. Non-structural projects will be more of a priority moving forward, Kline said. “It can’t just be about hard structures and building land,” he said. “We’ve got to turn our attention to more of the resiliency aspects of the master plan.”

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