Starting this summer, new and returning levee board members across Louisiana will be going back to school – for three days.
A new “levee school” is being developed by professors at LSU with help from the state Department of Natural Resources, the state Department of Transportation and Development and current levee board members.
The first classes are expected to start this summer.
John Pine, professor at LSU and one of the organizers of the levee school project, said a number of interested groups – including levee board members and administrators, met in January to discuss what should be taught during the three-day course.
Pine said the group’s consensus was that the first few sessions would be designed for newly seated levee board members.
“Board members come in with different skills and backgrounds,” Pine said. The levee schools will help get people on the same page.
Although the curriculum is still being developed, these courses likely would include topics such as an overview of levee construction and maintenance, wetlands restoration and their relation to flood control, finance management and working with other agencies such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Pine said organizers expect to present four levee school sessions the first year, starting early this summer.
That class will be supplemented with additional courses that would be of interest to specific areas of the state. For example, a course on providing protection from hurricane storm surges likely would not be of interest to levee boards in north Louisiana, he explained.
Thomas Jackson, president of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East board, said conducting levee school sessions is a good idea.
“I’m very excited about the prospect,” he said. Jackson, and a number of the flood protection board members, attended the January planning meeting for the levee schools, he said.
“I think it’s not only a good opportunity for everybody on the levee boards,” he said, “but I think it’s a chance for Louisiana to develop something really first class.”
A retired engineer, Jackson also served on an American Society of Civil Engineers panel that reviewed the Corps of Engineers study of why the New Orleans levees massively failed during Hurricane Katrina.
Paul Coreil, vice chancellor and director, Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service, agreed levee board members are showing significant interest in attending the course.
And, he said, it appears that other decision makers such as parish administrators and engineers as well as elected parish and municipal officials would be interested in taking the course.
“Anyone who would want to better understand levee processes,” Coreil said, could attend. “We definitely see a large pool of potential students out there.”
Coreil said the LSU Agriculture Center is involved because it has mechanisms able to reach the public.
In addition, the center plans to hire a coastal engineer to serve as a liaison to assist parishes and levee boards in obtaining any follow-up technical advice that they need.
Windell Curole, general manager of the South Lafourche Levee District, said he would like to see everyone involved in making decisions about coastal restoration and protection take the levee school classes.
“Any type of school situation where you bring in people with different experiences, you always pick up things,” Curole said.
It “cross fertilizes” ideas all over the state, he said.
“From our perspective, if it’s run correctly and we can get something from it, then it’s a good deal,” Curole said.
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