Paul Coreil, Schultz, Bruce, Schexnayder, Mark A., Richard, Cynthia C. | 8/24/2007 2:29:03 AM
CAMERON – Members of the LSU AgCenter’s task forces aimed at helping coastal Louisiana recover from the 2005 hurricanes met recently (Aug. 16-17) to discuss the progress made over the past two years, but they also agreed their mission still is an ongoing project.
Dr. Paul Coreil, LSU AgCenter vice chancellor for extension, said the work of the task forces – one for Southwest Louisiana and one for Southeast Louisiana – will continue for at least the next two years.
He said the work by LSU AgCenter personnel was enough to convince the Orleans Parish government to restore $50,000 in funding for the AgCenter – the first time that parish’s government has provided money for AgCenter employees in the parish over the past 20 years. In addition, St. Bernard Parish government increased its funding for the AgCenter, he said.
"People want to invest in improving their lives," Coreil said while urging the task forces to persevere in their efforts to help people rebuild and recover. "It’s that day-to-day commitment that makes us strong."
Coreil said an initiative brought to the LSU AgCenter administration by Mark Schexnayder, LSU AgCenter hurricane recovery coordinator for southeastern Louisiana, will start this year with a school to train incoming members of boards and commissions with levee oversight on details of levee construction and maintenance.
Schexnayder said the meeting of the two task forces with the various experts was encouraging.
"We’ve built a really good team with a variety of disciplines," he said. "Because of the storms, we’ve brought on several new employees, and I’m really impressed with their expertise."
Schexnayder said it was encouraging to see Cameron Parish residents rebuilding. He also said the recovery will require years of work, but the end result will be worth the effort. "We’ll be a much better state when it’s all said and done," he said.
But both he and Coreil said the LSU AgCenter administration has made the state’s recovery a top priority.
In other news during the meeting, Maurice Wolcott, a research associate with the LSU AgCenter and the Louisiana Sea Grant College Program skilled in geo-spatial systems, told the two groups that forecasting the effects of storm surge is difficult.
Water rose from Hurricane Rita several hours after the storm hit land, he said. In fact, Gary Wicke, LSU AgCenter county agent in Cameron Parish, watched the water rise 10 hours after the storm had passed, Wolcott said.
But a new computer modeling system developed by Dr. Hassan Mashriki, LSU AgCenter coastal engineer, projects storm surge levels for varying hurricane strengths, Wolcott said.
Mashriki said the model will allow the public to see where flooding will occur. It will also help governmental agencies make logistical decisions, he said.
The task forces also heard from Dr. Claudette Reichel, LSU AgCenter housing specialist, who said videos, including several that show best building practices, will be online soon at www.louisianahouse.org – a Web site within LSUAgCenter.com.
A model home, known as LaHouse, that incorporates recommended materials and construction methods is being constructed by the LSU AgCenter near the LSU campus in Baton Rouge. In addition, the LSU AgCenter Extension Office in Cameron Parish, which was ruined by Hurricane Rita, will be rebuilt as a demonstration home that uses many of the building practices incorporated in LaHouse – with an emphasis on affordability.
Cynthia Richard, LSU AgCenter hurricane recovery coordinator for southwestern Louisiana, stressed that the Cameron Extension Office, appropriately named "Chenier House," will be an excellent model for both hurricane-resistant construction and energy conservation.
A similar demonstration house also will be built for the LSU AgCenter Extension Office in Calcasieu Parish, and that one will feature a different foundation system.
The task forces toured several homes, completed or under construction, built to withstand another hurricane. And they were told that the LSU AgCenter will be presenting home tours in coastal areas for the public to view hurricane-resistant construction.
The first tour is set for next month with at least three new homes in Cameron Parish that have components of the LaHouse recommendations.
The task forces made stops at all three homes, including the residence of Margaret Jones, whose original home near Cameron was destroyed by storm surge. Jones said money from flood insurance and a homeowner’s insurance policy paid for building her elevated home that uses weather-resistant materials and construction methods.
"I had the money to do it right" she said. "I wanted to build it as strong as I could."
Heating and cooling expenses are lower because of a heavy layer of foam insulation sprayed in the attic.
Coreil said Louisiana’s population along the Gulf will have to adapt as Jones has done. "If we’re going to live along the coast, we have to live with the risks and live with them better," he said.
Paul Coreil at (225) 578- 6083 or PCoreil@agcenter.lsu.edu
Cynthia Richard at (337) 475-8812 or CRichard@agcenter.lsu.edu
Mark Schexnayder at (504) 838-1170 or MSchexnayder@agcenter.lsu.edu
Bruce Schultz at (337) 788-8821 or BSchultz@agcenter.lsu.edu