Both data and elected officials tell us flooding along the Red River will only get worse. So the question is how to lessen the impact.
A group of graduate students from Texas A&M University have researched that question for the past year and today they presented their findings to city and parish officials.
This is an extensive capstone research project by students at the Bush School of Government and Public Service. They said the cheapest and easiest solution lies in ecosystem management, basically creating enough green space along the Red River for water to flow when it does flood.
The graduates researched Caddo Parish flooding history, interviewed more than one-thousand residents and government leaders and compared flooding events in other states. They looked at the causes of the 2015 and 2016 flood and possible solutions moving forward.
“Based on the flooding that happened here was that there’s an increased urbanization of the area. So more houses, more industries building right next to the river. Areas that typically didn’t have any type of development there in the first place, so when it floods, we have a problem,” said Shelby Poncik, Texas A&M’s Bush School of Government & Public Service.
They’re favored option is called soft-engineering solutions which creates green space along the river. There could be a government buyout to turn farm, residential and commercial lands into wetlands.
“We’ve got to find some more space for water. We take that space and use it for other things that would be so nice for our community so that’s one of things I’d really like for us to look at,” said Sheriff Steve Prator, Caddo Parish.
Sheriff Prator originally asked for the study from Bush School professor and fellow Shreveporter Dr. Arnold Vedlitz. Prator said it confirmed aspects we knew but also reinforced the total problem.
“The river has gotten worse, it’s getting worse daily and we’d better do something as a community to get together and fix it,” Prator said.
Officials said there’s efforts on the federal level for wetland protection but not on the local level.
“There is the Red River Wildlife Refuge that is trying to buy land, marginal farm lands and turn it into wetlands. What would it cost to buy the land and put it into wetlands or parks and that would have to be another benefit cost we’d have to look at,” said Richard Brontoli, Red River Valley Association executive director.
Students said other solutions are called hard-engineering. They lie in building infrastructure and dredging but are more costly and require more man-power.
Another message from the students is more collaborations between governments.
The room was filled with city, parish and state officials all looking for ways to prepare for the next flood.
We do have a Flood Technical Committee that was created in 2015 which includes leaders from Shreveport and Bossier. They will take the student’s findings and come up with recommendations for community leaders.
The study will be posted on the Red River Valley Association’s website.