Archive for Community Resiliency
Earlier this month, we put out a call for coastal restoration slogans that could be made into a design to be featured on Dirty Coast t-shirts and other products. We received an overwhelming response of more than 200 highly-creative submissions, making our job of selecting which to feature extremely difficult. So much so that we chose five finalists instead of the originally planned three.
- The World Needs More Louisiana
- Greaux the Delta, Greaux Our Home
- Save the Boot
- Let the River Run Through It
- Keep LAND in Our Wetlands
So, we need YOU to help us decide. Vote here for your favorite slogan today through Thursday August 6.
The slogan receiving the most votes will be made into a design that Dirty Coast will place on t-shirts and other products sold in stores and online over the next year. A portion of sale proceeds will go to the Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition to help us educate and engage people about the need for coastal restoration. The person who submits the winning slogan will receive a $200 gift card to Dirty Coast, second place will receive a $100 gift card, and third place a $50 card. All three finalists will receive a coastal tour led by experts in coastal restoration.
We’ll announce the winning slogan and unveil the design at a launch party and happy hour on August 20 at 6 p.m. at Dirty Coast’s new Marigny location (2121 Chartres Street, New Orleans, LA).
We hope to see you there!
By Steve Cochran, Director, Mississippi River Delta Restoration Program, Environmental Defense Fund
Ten years ago, just after Hurricane Katrina, I was asked to talk to Environmental Defense Fund’s board about the place where I grew up, the New Orleans area that had been hit so hard.
I remember two things about that discussion. One was my voice breaking unexpectedly (and embarrassingly) as we talked through pictures of the Katrina aftermath and came across places I intimately knew.
As an adult, I had developed a love/hate relationship with my home – loving the beauty, the people, the community and the culture, but frustrated by what I saw as the general tolerance of mediocrity and corrupt politics that limited its possibilities. That frustration had pushed the love down, and I had moved away. But there it was again. Sometimes you don’t know how much you care.
The second thing I remember was saying that the Katrina response was a deep test of our governments – local, state and national. As we know now, in that moment, it was a test they failed. But fast forward to July 2, 2015, the day a global settlement was announced in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill case. It was a day when governments rose to the occasion. The result was literally the largest environmental settlement in U.S. history.
The BP Settlement and Louisiana Coastal Restoration
Under the agreement, Louisiana will receive more than a third of the money – $6.8 billion of the $18.7 billion, and $5.8 billion of that is specifically targeted to restoration. The overall restoration total for Louisiana will likely be just under $8 billion, including early restoration dollars and criminal settlements.
These are significant resources at a critical time. Land loss across the coast of Louisiana, exacerbated by the spill, continues at a fearful rate. But we are making progress against that loss, and with the solid state commitment that now exists, and effective plans in place, these resources will allow us to battle back in earnest, with a clear-eyed view toward success.
In particular, the state plans to re-engage the enormous power of the Mississippi River and its sediment through a series of sediment diversions – using the natural land-building capacity of the river by reconnecting it to the delta it originally built. This science-based, innovative approach is the critical piece in our ability to provide solutions at a scale that can match the challenges in the Mississippi River Delta – now the largest restoration effort under way in the world.
Rebuilding Our Coast to Protect Our Communities
About a month after the spill, I was allowed to sit in on a tribal council of the indigenous United Houma Nation. As the oil continued to pour into the Gulf of Mexico, which it would do for another two months, I listened and watched as a man described, through a quiet voice and uncontrolled tears, how he had always looked to the waters of the Gulf and drawn confidence, knowing he could always provide for his family by accepting its gifts. But now all he could feel was fundamental fear.
Money can’t replace that kind of loss any more than it can bring back the 11 loved ones who lost their lives in the accident.
But we must do what we can – and in that context, the BP settlement is a tremendous step forward, because we can restore the Mississippi River Delta, so it can protect this area in the future.
Details matter, of course, and details remain to be decided as the Agreement in Principle is turned into a consent decree. We need to remain involved and vigilant. But it does seem clear that this agreement combines avoiding years of litigation with levels of funding that can truly make a difference.
With these resources, we can go to work to make sure that the largest environmental settlement in our nation’s history also becomes the most meaningful settlement in a place that, well, I love.
By Rachel Pickens, Esq., Resiliency Manager for Coastal Outreach & Community Awareness, Lower 9th Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development
"River to the Bayou" is a phrase often spoken by members the Lower 9th Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development (CSED). When CSED was created in December 2006 by Pam Dashiell and Charles Allen, they envisioned rebuilding a more resilient neighborhood, one that stretches from the Mississippi River to Bayou Bienvenue. Learning from Katrina, they realized that resilience is more than strengthening the built environment – it also requires restoring and protecting the surrounding natural environment.
There is a need for more education and awareness of the importance of our coastal wetlands in communities like the Lower 9th Ward, which have and continue to be disproportionately affected by strong storms. Residents must look out to the coast protect what's in the neighborhood, and in the Lower 9th Ward, that means reconnecting people with the river and the bayou.
To address this need, CSED is creating a Wetland Education Center for residents to learn and interact with the water that surrounds the neighborhood. The site will run along Florida Ave, between Caffin Ave. and Lamanche St., across the street is the Bayou Bienvenue Wetland Triangle and platform. It is composed of four lots, which CSED purchased from the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority in 2013. The first phase of the project, an outdoor classroom, was constructed through a partnership with Tulane's School of Architecture during the 2015 spring semester.
The outdoor classroom includes a bioswale, where the sloped ground collects water that would otherwise cause flooding in the adjoining street. The goal is to retain 100% of all rainwater that falls on the site. Plants in the bioswale include spider lilies, thalias, irises, and soft rush, all plants that live well in wet and boggy soils.
The bioswale is divided into three zones, demarcated by oyster benches and oyster trails. The oysters serve as "check dams", which slow down the rainwater and prevent it from eroding the bioswale. The three zones are a visual timeline of the neighboring Bayou Bienvenue. The zone by the entrance, with the diversity of native plants, represents the past, before Bayou Bienvenue was destroyed by the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO). The middle zone represents the current state of the bayou, sparse with only a few switch grasses. The third zone, representing the future, remains unfinished and will be a site for additional plantings.
The site also includes two shaded structures. The first, an outdoor classroom and a second, to be used for kayak storage. Both structures are composed of steel columns and shade cloth that provides 90% UV protection. In front of the structures are rows of silver shower Aztec and purple foundation grass which will help prevent erosion. The outdoor class room also includes an orchard now growing grapefruit, orange, satsuma, kumquat, fig and apple trees, along with a magnolia tree. Program coordinator, Kathy Muse started a butterfly garden in the back part of the site several years ago.
Phase 2 of Wetland Education Center will include the placement of a modular classroom. Designed by Eskew+Dumez+Ripple, in partnership with the US Green Building Council (USGBC), the classroom features sustainable building materials and design elements. It was showcased at the 2014 USGBC Green Build, held in New Orleans. The classroom, which was donated to CSED, will be used as a K-12 environmental education center and research space.
While the Wetland Education Center is still a work in progress, it is currently open to the community and it will be a gathering and learning site for wetland awareness and water management. CSED believes that the first step towards resiliency is education and with the help of the Wetland Education Center, the Lower 9th Ward will become more resilient than ever.
CSED and other environmental groups will be holding a ribbon cutting ceremony for the first phase of the project on August 11th at 10am, following a press event at the Bayou Bienvenue Wetland Triangle Platform to discuss the state of our coast 10 years after Hurricane Katrina. For more information on this event, contact Samantha Carter at carterS@nwf.org.
For more information on CSED and how you can get involved, click here.1 Comment
As we approach the 10th anniversaries of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita – a time when we all learned about the importance of the Louisiana coast as a first line of defense against storms – Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition and Dirty Coast are partnering to feature YOUR coastal restoration messages on t-shirts, bags, posters and other snazzy products that will be sold in Dirty Coast’s New Orleans stores and across the web to help raise awareness and support for Louisiana coastal restoration.
Louisiana continues to lose a football field of land every hour, and our state has lost 1,900 square miles of land since the 1930s. These wetlands are crucial to protecting our homes and communities from the effects of hurricanes and storm surge. Without action, we stand to lose another 1,000 square miles by 2050. We want to engage people locally and nationally to understand just how important our coast is to the long-term resiliency of southern Louisiana and the entire nation that depends on our region.
That’s where YOU come in! We want to hear YOUR ideas for coastal restoration slogans! The creative wizzes at Dirty Coast are looking for slogans to use to create designs they’ll place on products to educate people around the world about how badly we need our coast restored now.
How It’s Going Down:
- Submit as many ideas or slogans as you like here from now through July 23, 2015.
- After July 23, we’ll select the best THREE slogans that most closely align with the positive messages of coastal restoration and have the best potential to make rad t-shirt designs.
- We'll let YOU vote for the slogan you want to see designed into a t-shirt and other products.
- The first place slogan will be made into a design Dirty Coast will sell year-round on t-shirts and other products to raise funds for restoration efforts. The person who submits the winning design will receive a $200 gift card to Dirty Coast, second place will receive a $100 gift card, and 3rd place a $50 gift card.
- We’ll announce the winning design at a launch party on August 20 at Dirty Coast’s new Marigny location (2121 Chartres Street).
- The winning design will be featured and sold in Dirty Coast stores and online over the next year, with a portion of sale proceeds going to the Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition to help educate and engage people about the need for coastal restoration.
Some Tips to Help You Out:
- Keep it positive: Our situation is grave, but we want to feature positive, proactive messages that convey that solutions are possible. Some questions to get your creative juices flowing:
- What does the Louisiana coast mean to you?
- Why is it important that the Louisiana coast be restored?
- How would you explain coastal restoration to a kindergartener?
- Why is it important that we act now to restore the coast?
- Keep it simple: The message needs to be easily understood, engaging and memorable.
- Keep it fun: In case you’re not familiar with Dirty Coast designs, they’re clever, fun and captivating. See some of their designs here for inspiration.
What’s In It for You?
- Prizes: The person who submits the winning design will receive a $200 gift card to Dirty Coast, second place will receive a $100 gift card, and 3rd place a $50 gift card.
- Glory: Your winning message will be proudly worn by coastal warriors around the country for generations come, to spread the message of Louisiana coastal restoration.
- Pride: You can tell your grandkids that you had a hand in the fight to save our coast.
What more reasons do you need? Now get to work unleashing your creative genius to save the coast! Submit your ideas here. We can’t wait to see the results.
Questions? Email email@example.com
About Dirty Coast: Dirty Coast began in 2004 as a response to what was passing for local apparel on Bourbon street; a way to make cool designs for die hard New Orleanians. Small batches of shirts and posters. A fun side project. In 2005, a Category 3 storm made its way through the area without causing too much damage. Then the federal infrastructure meant to protect the city failed and filled New Orleans with water. Soon after, Blake found himself in Lafayette with all his plans placed on hold. While in exile, meditating on this fate of his beloved city, Blake designed a bumper sticker that read, “Be a New Orleanian, Wherever You Are.” He printed 5,000, and placed them all over New Orleans as soon as he could return. The reaction to Blake's design was overwhelming, and developing the Dirty Coast brand became a no-brainer. Why T-shirts? Because they are the great equalizer. You can have a good design. You can have fun, cheeky copy. But to create a shirt that exists on a level beyond your standard laundry, that engages your friends and neighbors in conversation, that starts debates, that elicits laughter, nostalgia, and many “Yea Ya Right!” That’s what we’re trying to do. To be bold and to be real about our dirty, marvelous city. Everything we do, everything we make is a proclamation of our love for New Orleans. And when you truly love something, you want to share it with as many people as possible. So whether you’re born here, a transplant, or simply passing through, you can be a New Orleanian wherever you are.
About Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition: The Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition is working to protect people, wildlife and jobs by reconnecting the river with its wetlands. As our region faces the crisis of threatening land loss, we offer science-based solutions through a comprehensive approach to restoration. Composed of conservation, policy, science and outreach experts from Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, we are located in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Washington, D.C.; and around the United States. Learn more at www.mississippiriverdelta.org and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.No Comments
By Jacques P. Hebert, Communications Director, National Audubon Society, Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition
This Tuesday a group of nearly 200 people gathered at the Peoples Health New Orleans Jazz Market for a day of talks from a variety of community and business leaders, artists, academics and others as part of the first-ever TedxNewOrleans. While the perspective of each talk varied, resilience and recovery of Greater New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina served as a unifying theme. The talks were spirited, inspirational and truly painted a picture that New Orleans “didn’t just come back, we got crunk” as colorfully stated by Michael Hecht of GNO Inc. in closing the day. Videos of the events are forthcoming, but in the meantime, here are some of the highlights:
- Rod West, Entergy’s Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer, painted a visceral picture of the days following Katrina, from thinking we had dodged a bullet to being told there were white caps on Canal Street to then having to inform his employees that their homes were underwater and ask that they get to work literally repowering New Orleans.
- The Executive Director of 504ward, “New Orleans’ home base for young talent,” Jessica Shahien explored the city’s transition and her organization’s role in turning the notorious brain drain into a brain gain and how young professionals are flocking to live in New Orleans.
- Troy Simon detailed his journey from being twelve, illiterate and living in the Lower 9th Ward at the time of Katrina to being a senior at Bard College, a nationally-recognized speaker on education reform and meeting President and Mrs. Obama at the White House.
- SMG Executive Vice President Doug Thornton discussed the recovery of the Superdome – particularly his team’s frantic struggle to get it functional in time for the 2006 Saints vs. Falcons opener – and its status as an economic engine for New Orleans and symbol of resiliency.
- Through a series of conceptual drawings, Aron Chang of Waggoner and Ball Architects provided an overview of how the Mississippi River built its delta over time and encouraged all of us to “draw” our visions for what the future of our region might look like.
- A former marketing executive at Mignon Faget and Sucré and creative director of the Muses parade, Virginia Saussy colorfully recounted the months following Katrina when laughing through tears was critical and how she responded to a CNN story suggesting New Orleans cancel its first post-Katrina Mardi Gras.
- From education to healthcare to public housing, Chief Administrative Officer of the City of New Orleans Andy Kopplin discussed how government has been a force of disruptive change since Katrina.
- Actress and musician Kimberly Rivers Roberts recounted how Katrina empowered her to change her attitude from “I can’t” to “I can,” opening up a world of opportunities, including a documentary she filmed “Trouble the Water” receiving an Academy Award nomination.
What struck me in hearing these people speak about resilience, recovery, of “I can” attitudes and disruptive innovations, is that these principles can and have been applied in the fight to save Louisiana’s coast. In addition to the undeniable economic and infrastructural progress made around the Greater New Orleans region that these talks highlighted, over the last 10 years, we have also made significant gains in restoring our coast including:
- Passing game-changing legislation that has provided us with a science-based blueprint (Louisiana’s Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast) and funding (the RESTORE Act) for addressing our coastal land loss crisis.
- Closing storm surge super highway MRGO and developing a plan to restore this ecosystem.
- Implementing early restoration projects, such as the Mid-Barataria Land Bridge and Marsh Creation Project, Lake Hermitage Marsh Creation, and other early restoration projects that have already made headway in building land and preventing further loss.
The progress made over the last decade is proof that working together we can address the most significant crisis currently facing our state. Louisiana continues to lose a football field of land every hour. Our best offense to protect New Orleans and Southern Louisiana from future storms is a strong defense, and with all due respect to our Saints, New Orleans has no better defensive line than a restored coast. For that reason, our coalition advocates for a Multiple Lines of Defense Strategy – anchored by a restored coast working in concert with the $14.5 billion dollar improved levee system and water management innovations like the Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan. These pieces of the pie fit together to protect our communities, industries and culture and serve as a model for similar communities around the world.
As we look ahead, in order to ensure the long-term protection and resiliency of our region, we need to continue to fund and implement the Coastal Master Plan, particularly the 19 priority projects in it identified by our coalition as having the greatest potential to restore our coast. Ten years later, it’s clear that New Orleans has bounced back (and even gotten a little crunk). Let’s recognize, learn from and celebrate these successes, but let’s also acknowledge the work that remains and get to it.No Comments
By Natalie Peyronnin, Director of Science Policy, Mississippi River Delta Restoration, Environmental Defense Fund
Twenty-seven leading wildlife and fisheries biologists and other wetlands professionals are urging Louisiana’s citizens to support the construction of sediment diversions to restore marshes vital for protecting Louisiana’s diminishing coast and the people and wildlife it supports.
In full-page ads that will begin appearing in Louisiana media, including the state’s largest newspapers, this Sunday, May 3, the experts write:
“Louisiana urgently needs to restore a better balance between wetland building and wetland loss, between freshwater intrusion and saltwater intrusion, and between the river and the sea so that Louisiana’s wildlife, fish, culture, communities and economy will benefit for generations.”
These wildlife and fisheries biologists and wetlands experts who signed onto the letter have a connection to Louisiana’s coast and want to see it restored: “Like many of you, the signers of this letter know all too well what is at stake. We are wetland professionals who share a passion for Louisiana’s natural places and the extraordinary abundance of fish and wildlife it sustains…In addition to our professional work, we hunt, fish and spend much of our leisure time enjoying our state’s coastal wildlife and fisheries. We watch the wetlands convert to shallow water every day, every year. No one wants to save Louisiana’s coastal fish and wildlife more than we do.”
“We call on Louisiana to continue moving forward with the construction of large-scale wetland-building diversions,” the experts write. “We call on federal agencies to support Louisiana’s efforts by streamlining project implementation. We call on the citizens of Louisiana to insist that our leaders hold to the plan and move quickly.”
Despite the ability of sediment diversions to anchor and sustain the overall coastal restoration system for years to come, opposition exists in limited pockets. Last week, the St. Bernard Parish Council adopted a resolution opposing the use of state funding for four proposed sediment diversion projects, and some commercial fisherman say the diversions would push their saltwater fishing areas further from the coast. The scientists acknowledge this, noting, “Wetland-building diversions will not destroy fisheries but instead will immediately push them farther from some parts of the coast” and recommend objective policies to assist affected fisherman.
“We shouldn’t manage coastal wetlands only for our generation,” the scientists write in their letter, saying that the continuing loss of wetlands will rob future generations of jobs, Louisiana’s unique culture and wildlife habitat.
They also note that “places on our coast continue to thrive . . . where the river is allowed to work its magic.”
The paid advertisements will appear in the following publications in the coming weeks: The Advocate, The Plaquemines Gazette, The St. Bernard Voice, The Times-Picayune, The Houma Courier, Coastal Angler and Louisiana Sportsman.
You can read their letter in full below:No Comments
By Maura Wood, Partnership Manager, National Wildlife Federation
On April 20, several members of the Restore the Mississippi River Delta campaign gathered with community members in Davant, Louisiana, to commemorate the 5th anniversary since the BP oil spill with testimony and discussion about how the terrible oil unleashed on that day is still affecting us all. Those gathered included representatives from NGOs, fishermen, residents of coastal communities, business leaders, employees of restoration agencies and others.
While there is widespread agreement that restoring our coast is a priority and that BP should pay to repair the damage it created, we sometimes disagree on how best to achieve these goals. Our collective situation is urgent. Unfortunately, our differences sometimes prevent us from making rapid progress. When we let ourselves become attached to one idea or one way of doing things, we may begin to see those with different ideas as one-dimensional opponents – making it less likely we’ll be able to solve our land loss crisis.
To avoid this outcome, I and my colleagues make contact with a variety of people concerned about restoration, in as many ways and as often as possible. The invitation to the workshop for Plaquemines Parish Fishermen and Fishing Communities five years after the BP oil disaster was a welcome opportunity to learn more from the first-hand experiences of others. The panels and discussions dealt with how BP had settled – or not – with fishermen, the damage left behind from the oil and the dispersant and how the citizens of lower Plaquemines Parish were coping –or not – with the environmental, financial and cultural losses forced upon them by the oil spill.
Testimony from fishermen, shrimpers, and oystermen clearly spelled out some of the obstacles they still face. Prior to the spill, many had served as deckhands on oyster boats or as small operators selling sack oysters from the public seed grounds. For some, troubles began even earlier with Hurricane Katrina. Following the oil spill, producing the necessary proof of loss of income was difficult for many of these fishermen, resulting in their receiving little to no compensation from BP.
Other participants expressed concerns about the long-term effects of dispersants sprayed during the oil spill, the failure of oysters to recover on the east side of the river and how the oil spill was still unravelling the economic fabric of the lower parish. The marina, they said, the “heart” of the community, is now silent and without business. Before Katrina and the spill, this was a center for exchange within the community. Families gathered here after school. Young men earned spending money by unloading oysters. Trucks came in and out, loading and shipping seafood. Without this “center”, people feel the heart of their community is gone. “What is the price of a tradition?” one woman asked.
The participants in this workshop provided a glimpse into the real struggles they face in trying to recover from the impact of the BP oil spill. Sharing individual stories helps us view each other as real people with good intentions seeking to make it right. When we see each other as people with unique stories and valuable perspectives, we can better empathize with and address each other’s concerns about the uncertainties of coastal restoration.
The reward? A new tradition of people from different walks of life working towards the same goal – collectively sustaining and stewarding our coast and coastal communities for all Louisianans. That is a tradition worth building.
By Shannon Cunniff, Deputy Director, Water Program, Environmental Defense Fund
This is part two of a two-part series about the new Federal Flood Risk Management Standard.
Hurricane Katrina and Super Storm Sandy clearly illustrated the significant effects storms and flooding can have on the nation’s economy and security. So it’s not surprising that the President tapped the National Security Council to lead an interagency team to develop additional means to reduce the impact and cost of floods to the nation.
To develop the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard, the Council built upon work done by the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force and its Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Strategy, that recommended the federal government create a national flood risk standard for federally-funded projects beyond the Sandy-affected region.
In developing the Standard, the National Security Council should have used more transparency. For example, it doesn’t appear the Council consulted with Louisiana’s community leaders and others affected by Hurricane Katrina. That’s hard to understand, given the impacts that storm had on the region.
In addition to gaining understanding of the different and separate conditions around the nation, outreach also might have resulted in greater understanding among stakeholders of the intent behind the executive order and engendered less anxiety about its impact from those outside of Washington. To that end, such outreach very likely would have resulted in less confusion and consternation about the order, yielding a better result.
Implementing the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard
There are two steps to full implementation of the Standard. The first started with development and issuance of its draft Implementing Guidelines. The Administration has provided an extended opportunity for public comment on these overarching guidelines, which is currently scheduled to close on May 6, 2015. The second step will be development of detailed guidelines by each affected federal agency that reflect their authorities and programs.
Until the implementing agencies develop their guidelines, specific concerns about what the standard will mean can’t be fully answered. This causes increased anxiety among stakeholders.
Making sure implementation works for Louisiana
In the current public comment period, there are three significant ways to ensure application of the executive order works for Louisiana and other states that have real concerns about the outcomes:
First, commenters can identify clarifications needed in the final overarching Implementing Guidelines so that they set clear direction and sideboards, yet retain flexibility. These parameters will then guide each federal agency in developing its own implementing guidelines
Second, commenters can seek desired improvement in the public dialogue on flood risk management by suggesting that these final Implementing Guidelines direct federal agencies to engage in meaningful dialogue before and as they develop their own program-specific guidelines.
Lastly, commenters can identify issues and questions that each federal agency should carefully consider when drafting their program-specific guidelines.
While the White House could have done a better job engaging other regions of the U.S. prior to establishing its Federal Flood Risk Management Standard, let’s embrace opportunities to engage in meaningful dialogue to establish flexible policies that encourage and enable communities to improve their resiliency. To send comments on the draft Implementing Guidelines, click here and then search for the notice in docket ID FEMA-2015-0006.
If you missed it, check out part one of this series: The new Federal Flood Risk Management Standard.No Comments
By Shannon Cunniff, Deputy Director, Water Program, Environmental Defense Fund
This is part one of a two-part series about the new Federal Flood Risk Management Standard. Check back tomorrow for part two.
There has been a lot of misinformation circulating about the new Federal Flood Risk Management Standard established in Executive Order (EO) 13690. In this two-part series, we will shed light on the new standard as well as ways for stakeholders to get involved in the process and make their voices heard.
Louisiana and its citizens are no strangers to flooding and flood risk. Were it not for the devastation caused by the 1927 Mississippi River floods, Congress might not have created a new major flood control program for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. So it’s not hyperbole to say Louisiana’s history is steeped in floods.
Louisiana’s broad deltaic floodplains, storied bayous and New Orleans’ own tenacity and resilience to floods define this region. Louisiana knows how to live with water and the threat of flood. Through its Coastal Master Plan, the state is demonstrating to the nation its leadership in flood risk reduction and how creative cross-jurisdictional planning can ensure a vibrant future despite rising seas.
Why have a flood risk standard for federal investments?
However, Louisiana isn’t alone in experiencing flood damages. Between 1980 and 2013, the United States suffered more than $260 billion in flood-related damages. Accounting for inflation, the dollar losses due to U.S. tropical storms and floods have tripled over the past 50 years.
During this period, the federal government has assumed an increasing proportion of the financial responsibility associated with flooding and coastal storms. Federally funded infrastructure – including buildings, roads, ports, industrial facilities and military installations – have suffered flood damages stemming from higher flood levels, higher sea levels and more severe storms. A goal for the new Federal Flood Risk Management Standard is to establish a higher level to which federal actions must be resilient.
This risk management standard represents an important step in coming to terms with more intense storms and sea level rise. The nation and its communities, as well as federal agencies, need to join together to cope with what sea level rise means for our coastal areas, populations, infrastructure and economies.
It’s taken us decades, even centuries, to achieve current levels of development. Now we need to start positioning ourselves to adjust to changing conditions. We need to start building differently and gradually shifting our important assets out of harm’s way.
Leaders in reducing risks
More than 350 communities across the nation, including some in Louisiana, have already implemented standards that account for increased future flood risk, to ensure investments today still provide benefits in a riskier future.
While the federal government is catching up with these communities, it’s been a leader and advocate for floodplain management since 1977, when the federal floodplain management executive order was last updated. Since then, federal agencies have been assessing – usually during their development of an environmental assessment or environmental impact analysis – and minimizing the effects of proposed actions occupying or modifying the floodplain.
The new federal flood risk management standard
The Federal Flood Risk Management Standard supplements the long-standing federal floodplain management Executive Order 11988 approach, by increasing the size of the floodplain and setting a higher level for designing means to lessen flood risks. When evaluating projects, federal agencies must consider:
- The impacts of their proposed action on adding to others’ flood risk.
- Ways to reduce impacts of flooding to structures they fund.
Federal agencies still must avoid the direct or indirect support of floodplain development whenever there is a practicable alternative. Practicality is the pivotal word with much turning on the purpose and need for the action. As the last 37 years demonstrate, federal agencies implementing Executive Order 11988 have been prudent in determining practicality.
Federally funded actions have and will continue in Louisiana’s broad, flat floodplains. They will do so in a manner that ensures federal investments lessen the risk of damaging floods, reduces the cost of flood damages to life and property and, should there be a severe event, rebound quickly to serve their intended purpose.
How we go about developing policies and practices to protect federal investments, lives and property from storms, floods and sea level rise is important. While the new Federal Flood Risk Management Standard is a good thing, there are two areas worth examining around the executive order: process and substance. In tomorrow's post, we will be examining both of these areas and ideas for improvement.
Check back tomorrow for part two: Improving implementation of the new Federal Flood Risk Management Standard.No Comments