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High Water Mark Initiative begins in St. Tammany Area

High Water MarkIt’s said that those who forget history end up repeating it. In southeast Louisiana, Sea Grant personnel are leading an effort to ensure locals don’t forget their communities’ flooding past.

“We’ve been discussing the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) High Water Mark Initiative for a while,” said Carol Franze, Louisiana Sea Grant and LSU AgCenter Extension agent for St. Tammany and Tangipahoa parishes. She is spearheading the project locally with communities including St. Tammany Parish and the cities of Slidell, Mandeville and Covington.

Flooding is the top natural disaster in the United States, according to FEMA. Yet, only about one-third of respondents to a national flood risk awareness survey believed their communities were at risk of flooding. In response to those survey results, FEMA created the High Water Mark (HWM) Initiative to raise flood risk awareness. Communities opting into HWM earn Community Rating System (CRS) points, which can lower local National Flood Insurance Program premiums.

One aspect of HWM is to erect signs that indicate how high flood waters rose at that particular location, as well as provide information about that specific flood. “The partner communities will decide where the signs will go. But the locations need to be impactful. So, they’re looking at sites that experienced repetitive flooding losses,” said Franze. Sign locations should be determined sometime in the spring, with eventually five to ten signs in each community. They will represent areas of recreational, commercial and residential interest. Phase one signage will focus on the area from the coast to US 190. Subsequent phases will focus on past flood locations further north.

“Another aspect of the program is educational,” added Franze. “Education and outreach activities will be geared toward adults – homeowners and business owners. There also will be training for
teachers so they can teach their students about flooding and flood risks. And later, there will be educational activities geared toward children. All of this will focus on general flood knowledge, flood prevention and flood preparation. We’ll also touch a little bit on wetlands.”

More information on HWM can be found at www.fema.gov/high-water-mark-initiative. Franze can be reached at [email protected].