CONVENT — A new program created by two St. James Parish government departments will aid officials in identifying locations prone to backwater flooding and properties that should be immediately protected by sandbags, the Parish Council learned Wednesday.
After Hurricane Isaac in August 2012, the parish government’s Geographic Information System and the Planning and Permitting departments worked together to enhance the parish’s reaction to future flooding emergencies, said Eric Deroche, parish director of emergency preparedness.
Ryan Donadieu, supervisor with the planning and permitting department, said using airborne light detection and radar sensors from a plane provided by LSU, different points on the ground are measured to determine digital elevation points.
Computer software then creates contoured maps of the land, he said, and shows at what water level the land will flood.
“What we wanted to do was get ahead of the game ... get in front of it, so when we know the water is coming in, who needs to be sandbagged first,” Donadieu said. “What houses are at the most risk and a good guess at approximately how many sandbags will be used per house.”
The team then assembled a database of property addresses sorted by the levels they are expected to flood at, he said.
Bobby Lear, GIS department coordinator, said the planning and permitting department, and other emergency officials, can then identify which properties should be sandbagged first and the approximate number of sandbags needed.
“At any given water level, we can react,” Lear said.
Parish President Timmy Roussel said he appreciated all the work the departments had put into the project. “We really need this,” Roussel said.
Parish Council Chairman Jimmy Brazan said the program was “something that can alleviate a homeowner’s fear.”
Councilmen Alvin St. Pierre, Terry McCreary, Jason Amato, Ralph Patin, Ken Brass and Charles Ketchens also attended Wednesday’s meeting.
In other business Wednesday, councilmen unanimously supported a resolution asking the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reconsider its recommendation for the West Shore Lake Pontchartrain Hurricane Protection Levee program and choose Alternative D instead.
Alternative D, also known as the locally preferred option, would provide 100-year storm levee protection for all of St. James. The recommendation chosen by the federal government provides no protection for the parish, officials have said.