Flooding and drainage are major political issues in Lafayette every election year.
On Oct. 14, when you vote for mayor-president and for council, flood policy is on the ballot.
Local government — that is, the mayor-president and the councils — impact flood risk in Lafayette in basically two ways: planning and infrastructure.
Where and how we build in Lafayette has a big impact on the community’s vulnerability to flooding, and that has a literal downstream effect on how our local government spends its tax dollars.
The more people move into areas at risk for flooding, the greater need for local infrastructure. Plus, people will pay higher flood insurance rates too.
Where we can grow is an important question facing Lafayette, since 41% of all new development in the parish since 2001 has occurred in areas at higher risk of flooding.
That’s something that Lafayette’s city and parish councils can address with local regulations, and other communities have gone down a variety of paths to address the same problem in their areas. On one extreme is Livingston Parish which has stopped allowing new development out of fear that it’s causing more floods.
Local regulations also set the standard for the flood resilience of new developments, and in Lafayette that standard is a 25-year storm. But data suggests, climate change is making those happen more frequently now.
It’s up to the city and parish councils to make sure that those regulations balance protecting residents while allowing Lafayette to grow.
Of course, when you hear “flood protection,” you’re probably thinking of big projects like detention ponds or coulees.
The mayor-president and councils decide what projects get funded. Do we build detention ponds? Do we line coulees with concrete? Do we divert flood waters to natural swamps and use green solutions.
It’s also up to the councils and the mayor-president to decide how to fund things that aren’t infrastructure but could help Lafayette understand it – like rain gauges, modeling and other research.
Those decisions don’t just matter during megastorms like the 2016 flood. Their consequences show up all the time in flash floods that wreak havoc on neighborhoods and streets.
Whatever role you think local government ought to play, the fact is, local government can and does affect our flood risk and what we do about it. So if that matters to you, you should ask candidates about it. Here are three questions you can ask:
- How should we prioritize local spending to reduce flood risk in Lafayette?
- What should we do about development in flood-prone areas locally?
- How should our local rules be changed to respond to increased flood risk?
Read more about flooding
For decades, Lafayette has grown into flood prone areas, but that has come with a hidden risk.
Residents near the Homewood detention pond project in south Lafayette are asking the Parish Council to delay the transfer of $1.2 million and include them in the “park” planning process.
They were sold visions of kayaks and fishing. Two years later, they’re living with the consequences of a colossal unfinished project.
Lafayette is in an extreme drought, the eighth driest summer on record. Hardened soils aren’t just bad for plants; they can worsen flooding when it does finally rain.
The City Council is set to vote on new rules for short-term rentals that operators oppose, and Mayor-President Josh Guillory is set to introduce his proposed budget for next year.
Heavier rainfall estimates for Lafayette are a warning shot of things to come, but more research is needed locally before changing course, experts say.