Vermilion Parish 4-H’ers set elevation benchmarks at schools

Bruce Schultz, Shirley, Mark G., Waits, Hilton, Waits, Shannan  |  10/27/2011 8:22:30 PM

A survey benchmark was installed at the 7th Ward Elementary School in Vermilion Parish. Elevation of 6.75 feet above sea level was later stamped into the marker. (Photo by Bruce Schultz. Click on photo for downloadable image.)

Megan Mouton, a fourth-grade student at the 7th Ward Elementary School in Vermilion Parish, digs a hole for a survey benchmark to be set in concrete. LSU AgCenter 4-H agents visited schools throughout the parish in September and October to tell 4-H Clubs about the threat of coastal erosion and subsidence to their parish, and how to prepare. (Photo by Bruce Schultz. Click on photo for downloadable image.)

Work continues on a floodwall being built around the perimeter of the 7th Ward Elementary School in Vermilion Parish. The school was flooded by hurricanes Rita and Ike. (Photo by Bruce Schultz. Click on photo for downloadable image.)

News Release Distributed 10/27/11

MOUTON COVE, La. – Vermilion Parish 4-H leaders have been teaching two new words to 4-H Club members throughout the parish: resilient and subsidence.

In order to live in much of Vermilion Parish, students learned they will have to be resilient and adapt to the challenge of rising sea level and the sinking of the coast, a phenomenon called subsidence.

Hilton Waits, Shannan Waits and Mark Shirley, all of the LSU AgCenter, have visited schools throughout the parish during the past month.

With each school visit, 4-H Club members are helping to install survey benchmarks that will be stamped with the precise elevation of the school. But they were advised that in a few years, the actual elevation of the benchmarks is likely to be lower because of subsidence.

At the Seventh Ward Elementary School, between Abbeville and Intracoastal City, the building is being made resilient to flooding by a concrete wall built around the perimeter through a federally funded project.

For their part, the 4-H’ers dug the hole for the benchmark that was later measured at 6.75 feet above sea level.

After Hurricane Rita in 2005, flooding left a foot of water in the building, and classes had to be moved to other schools throughout the parish for the rest of the school year. The school flooded again with 6 inches of water from Hurricane Ike in 2008. Parents helped clean up the school, and it re-opened two weeks later.

Shirley, coastal resources specialist, told the Seventh Ward 4-H Club that many of the homes they live in will have to be raised as the Gulf of Mexico claims more and more of Louisiana’s coastal wetlands with rising sea level and subsidence.

The school is only 18 miles from the coast and only 6 feet above sea level, Shirley told the students. “You really don’t have a lot between you and the Gulf of Mexico.”

Many of their hands went up when Shirley asked if any of the students’ homes had been flooded.

“It was like 8 inches for Ike,” said student Nick Choate.

One student said his home has been raised 4 feet in preparation for the next high water, and a girl said hers is 8 feet higher.

“Once it flooded so bad, my Dad had to go to the house in a boat,” recalled student Solomon Sagrera.

Lisa Lee, an adult volunteer 4-H leader at the school, said her home is finally being raised. “We flooded for Rita and Ike.”

Shirley told students they can get more details about the potential for flooding for their homes by visiting the LSU AgCenter’s website and clicking on “Flood Maps” under features on the home page.

Bruce Schultz

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