Recovery mode: Input sought on how Calcasieu should move forward
Calcasieu Parish police jurors heard more details Thursday about the Long-Term Recovery Community Plan formulated to deal with recovery from Hurricanes Laura and Delta last year.
Alberto Galan, assistant to the parish administrator, said the 137-page draft version of the recovery plan is available for public viewing online at calcasieuparish.gov/recovery.
The plan, initiated in January, is designed as a blueprint to help the region build back stronger after the severe damage caused by the hurricanes. It outlines the long-term needs for six objectives: housing, infrastructure, health and social services, economic, community planning and natural and cultural resources.
Public comments are being accepted through Aug. 6, with adoption by the Police Jury set for Aug. 19.
The long-term recovery effort has relied on elected leaders and community members to prioritize the parish’s needs, Galan said. The draft plan’s main section deals with those recovery needs assessments.
The report states that 12,000 housing units in Calcasieu Parish are now uninhabitable because of the severe impacts from Hurricanes Laura and Delta. Some opportunities to remedy the problem include engaging in long-term master planning that ensures a vision for redevelopment that encourages residents to return, along with advocating for Low Income Housing Tax Credits for Southwest Louisiana for disaster recovery.
The report also mentions half of all the housing stock in Calcasieu was damaged by the hurricanes. Opportunities include a possible temporary requirement or a local incentive to generate affordable units, along with redeveloping the Lake Charles Housing Authority administrative office into a large-scale, mixed income, mixed use development as a best practice.
Looking at infrastructure, the draft plan mentions storm debris in ditches and drainage canals as a long-term need. It calls for expanding partnerships to implement parish-wide drainage debris cleanouts. With loss of critical public facilities, it lists installing a water tank pressure system with ground storage tanks to keep potable water for daily use.
Flood damage would potentially be addressed by building flood gates and a pump station to help control tidal surges on all affected laterals. For clogged drainage laterals, it mentions developing ordinances that have setback requirements for vegetation along public laterals to help minimize obstructions, as well as buying out homes along areas prone to flooding.
The economic section addresses a lack of available workforce in lower income levels that hampers the ability of businesses to provide services. It mentions having workforce training opportunities and promoting those with two-year degrees from Sowela Technical Community College. It also mentions replacing older, outdated structures with new, resilient ones, along with evaluating the future use of newly vacant properties.
Galan said an interactive public meeting is set for Aug. 2 at the Seed Center, 4310 Ryan St. Representatives from the six stakeholder groups, also known as the Recovery Support Functions, will be at the meeting to hear from residents.
The Capital One Tower in downtown Lake Charles has been vacant since Hurricane Laura struck the area on Aug. 27, 2020.