Protecting People, Property and Our Way of Life

North Lafourche voters to consider sales tax for levees

By:  Aaren Gordon, HoumaToday.com

March 9, 2015

http://www.houmatoday.com/article/20150309/ARTICLES/150309666/1319?Title=North-Lafourche-voters-to-consider-sales-tax-for-levees-May-2

 

The North Lafourche Levee District has approved placing a one-fourth-cent sales tax increase on the May 2 ballot to address flood prevention needs.

The tax the district’s board agreed to last week would generate around $2.2 million a year, Executive Director Dwayne Bourgeois told the Bayou Industrial Group at its monthly meeting Monday.

The district, which serves about 65,000 residents north of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, has identified $250 million worth of projects the would be cost-effective, he said.

“We do have needs all over the district,” he said, referring to the top 30 projects.

The work includes improving pump stations, levees and drainage canals from Gheens to Larose to Lockport, he said.

“Our future depends on flood protection. The Association of Levee Boards of Louisiana has a saying that without flood protection, nothing else matters,” he said.

The current tax generates $3.5 million each year. During the past fiscal year, the district was awarded an additional $1.55 million in federal construction money.

“We have been able to complete several projects very cost-effectively in recent years with the dollars we have available. But when we consider our risk in the event of a storm or hurricane, we know that more needs to be done,” Bourgeois in a statement the district released on the tax proposal.

A tax increase would attract more state and federal money for the projects, according to the statement.

In Lafourche, taxpayers pay an 8.2 percent sales tax in Thibodaux, 8.9 percent in north Lafourche outside of Thibodaux and 9.4 percent in south Lafourche. Terrebonne Parish’s sales tax is 9 percent.

Voters in the district rejected the board’s last request for a new sales tax in 2012. The proposed one-cent sales tax, which would have raised about $8 million a year, with 54 percent of voters against to 46 percent in favor. About 14 percent of the district’s voters cast ballots.

“Our current source of monetary resources does not adequately address those issues in a timely or sensible manner. It is our duty, as stewards of the people, to propose a legitimate and reasonable course to improve upon the efforts necessary to achieve their projects, district wide,” board President Cory Kief said in the statement.

After the BIG meeting Bourgeois flew to Washington to attend the Federal Emergency Management Agency Technical Mapping Advisory Panel meeting.

“This is going to advise FEMA on how to produce maps in the future,” he said.

The maps show flood risk and help determine flood insurance costs.

Regarding the President Barack Obama’s Jan. 30 executive order on national flood risk, Bourgeois said terms of the standards are “very nebulous.”

Obama’s proposed policy aims to protect federal investments from flooding.

Under the plan, construction would have to be built according to one of these options:

n Using the best available science for an area’s geography.

n Two feet above a 100-year-flood risk, or an elevation with a 1 percent chance of flooding during a given year.

n Three feet above the 100-year risk for critical projects, such as hospitals and evacuation centers.

n At a 500-year flood risk elevation, which has a 0.2 percent of happening in a given year.

“This is all actions, all agencies of the federal government. And I can’t tell you how many agencies of the federal government there are. The federal government can’t tell me how many agencies there are right now,” Bourgeois said.

He said the goal of the standard is to move away from flood control or protection and move toward risk management.

“A risk management strategy is code for ‘don’t live in the floodplain, avoid the floodplain.’ And we can’t avoid the floodplain, and what’s driving some of this is the (Hurricane) Sandy rebuilding effort. If you go to the coast of New Jersey, you might be able to get away with this. You can’t do that with us,” he said.