Port of LC partners with city, parish to warn flood-prone areas

Port of Lake Charles officials on Monday agreed to partner with the city of Lake Charles and the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury on an effort that would use computer graphics and animation to determine which watersheds and neighborhoods are more susceptible to flooding.

The partnership will add to an existing study that calls for making models of the parish’s existing watersheds and identifying ways to better manage them over the long term. Last November, the Police Jury accepted a proposal from a team that includes C.H. Fenstermaker and Associates of Lafayette; the Water Institute of the Gulf, a Baton Rouge-based nonprofit; Deltares, a Netherlands-based water institute; CSRS, a Baton Rouge-based engineering and planning firm; and McNeese State University.

The added effort will cost $50,000, with the port agreeing to put up $10,000, according to Port Director Bill Rase. The parish has agreed to give $25,000, and the city has agreed to give $10,000. The remaining $5,000 came from private donors, he said.

“It shows that all entities can pull together to try and get things done,” Rase said.

Allen Wainwright, parish public works director, said the pilot program will focus on Contraband Bayou. That watershed was chosen because preliminary modeling work was done on it around 2005, and a gauge system is already in place to monitor rain and water flow so they can be checked for accuracy.

The goal, Wainwright said, is to expand the modeling system to all 10 watersheds throughout Calcasieu Parish. He said officials are already talking about implementing the system at Bayou d’Inde.

“We’re encouraged by it,” Wainwright said. “It’s going in the right direction. But there’s still a lot of work to do on the modeling part to make it accurate.”

The output of these models may also be used down the road to alert residents and emergency personnel of which areas could flood during heavy rainfall or a rise in sea level.

“We’re working in that direction,” Wainwright said. “Like any forecast, we have to develop confidence.”

Rase said having an alert system in place is crucial for residents who live in flood-prone areas, along with helping first responders.

“Being that we’re so close to water, it’s good to have advance notice that you may have an issue,” he said. “People can raise their furniture or evacuate.”

The effort will be continually updated over several years as conditions change, Wainwright said.

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Efforts are underway to develop a system to warn area neighborhoods of potential flood-risk.

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