When Isaac’s storm surge pushed water into the north shore communities of Slidell, Mandeville and Madisonville in 2012, many officials felt neglected by the regional flood protection authority, which they said focused on the storm’s effect on areas south of Lake Pontchartrain.
That’s why many of those same officials, including St. Tammany Parish President Pat Brister, pushed for the parish to have its own levee board, effectively removing it from the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East.
That effort was rewarded this year when the Legislature passed a bill creating the nine-member St. Tammany Levee, Drainage and Conservation District.
That group met Wednesday night for the first time.
The meeting was opened by Brister, who thanked the members for their service and encouraged them to take on what she called an “immense” task.
“You are part of a new chapter in our flood protection and a much-needed voice for St. Tammany Parish,” she said.
Wednesday’s brief meeting revealed a wide variety of experiences and visions for the district. The nine members include engineers, attorneys, contractors and a former employee of the New Orleans Police Department.
Gov. Bobby Jindal appointed the nominees from a pool of candidates recommended by members of the district’s legislative delegation, Brister and the mayors of Slidell, Mandeville and Madisonville.
Pat Fitzpatrick, who said he has researched hurricane and storm surge, said the new agency will have to develop a plan to address not only storm surge but also drainage issues in some areas of the district.
Member Louis Sandoz touched on one of the key issues facing the commission when he said it needs to build “credibility” in order to seek funding for projects.
The question of funding is going to be key because, without a tax to bring in money, the district will have to compete for federal and state grant funds.
Such questions will wait for later meetings, however. On Wednesday night, the board worked to settle such matters as by-laws and officers. The group created a committee of three members — Kort Hutchison, Rykert Toledano and Dan McGovern — to draft a set of by-laws to present at the next meeting, which was scheduled for Jan. 21.
Toledano also was elected interim chairman until the group can establish by-laws.
Follow Faimon A. Roberts III on Twitter, @faimon.