Gov. John Bel Edwards has sent a letter to President Donald J. Trump requesting that he issue a Major Disaster Declaration for the State of Louisiana due to flooding that occurred along the Mississippi River and its tributaries this year. The Declaration would allow the federal government to supplement the flood fight costs for state and local agencies along with damages incurred.
“We have never dealt with river flooding issues like we have experienced this year,” said Gov. Edwards. “The Mississippi River remained above flood stage for the longest period in recorded history, and record rainfall only added to problems along waterways across the state. The conditions were so extreme that the Bonnet Carre Spillway had to be opened twice. While we faced a threat that exceeded the 1927 Mississippi River flood, our local levee districts and parishes have incurred great costs for patrols and temporary repair efforts. State agencies took extraordinary measures to support our local partners, but assistance from the federal government will be instrumental in helping them continue their recovery.”
Gov. Edwards is requesting Public Assistance (Categories A-G) for the Parishes of Assumption, Caldwell, Catahoula, Concordia, East Carroll, Franklin, Iberville, Ouachita, Pointe Coupee, Rapides, St. Martin, Terrebonne, and West Feliciana. He is also requesting Hazard Mitigation statewide.
Categories A-G involve debris removal, emergency protective measures and permanent work on infrastructures such as roads, bridges, water control facilities, buildings, equipment, utilities, and parks.
The request indicates, unlike other disasters that lead to federal declarations, that Lower Mississippi River flooding cannot be defined by a single, brief period of time. According to the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the Mississippi River and tributaries drain 41 percent of all water in the U.S. It is the world's third-largest watershed. The increased rainfall in the Midwest and Tennessee, Ohio and Arkansas river valleys, as well as record snowmelt in the north since the end of 2018, led to a large increase of water in that system - all eventually draining to Louisiana. For months, those floodwaters continued to impact the levee system in Louisiana. Although Louisiana's extensive system of levees, floodwalls, and three major diversion structures were able to contain the heightened river waters, Louisiana's continued flood fighting measures were vital in preventing catastrophic flooding in those areas near the river.
When Gov. Edwards issued a State of Emergency Declaration for Louisiana effective February 26, 2019, he directed the execution of the State Emergency Plan. At that point, state assets coordinated with and supplemented local assets for preserving public health and safety, as well as improved property. Those emergency protective measures continue to this day. However, since the Mississippi River fell below moderate flood stage at all gauges by July 30, the governor is asking that the incident period be extended through that date.
Additional parishes may be added once the full assessment process is completed. Damage assessment work is not possible in some areas at this time because high river levels make roads inaccessible.
Click here to read the request.