Archive for The Netherlands

The Next 50 Years: Nonstructural storm protection

July 2, 2012 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in 2012 Coastal Master Plan, Coastal Master Plan series, Community Resiliency, The Netherlands

By Brian Jackson, Associate Director – Stakeholder Engagement, Environmental Defense Fund

Last month, the Louisiana Legislature passed the 2012 Coastal Master Plan, capping off years of public engagement and analysis. The 50-year plan lays out a bold path of projects and programs to restore the environment and protect the people, economies and environment of the Mississippi River Delta. The total cost of the plan is $50 billion, of which $10.2 billion is dedicated to nonstructural risk reduction measures.

So what is nonstructural protection anyways? Why would the master plan allocate one out of every five dollars for nonstructural approaches? And what does it mean for Louisiana’s coastal communities?

The term “nonstructural” originated because nonstructural storm protection is considered the alternative to traditional structural flood protection (i.e. levees). Structural measures control water and keep it out or away from an area, while nonstructural measures accommodate water and make buildings and infrastructure more adaptable and resilient to water. Nonstructural approaches have been cleverly named “Living with Water” by colleagues at home, such as Waggonner & Ball Architects in New Orleans, and abroad, through the Dutch Dialogues workshops in the Netherlands. Nonstructural measures include a wide array of activities, including evacuation, home elevation, flood proofing of buildings, flood insurance, planning and zoning and storm proofing critical public facilities.

Nonstructural storm protection measures can be undertaken quickly — in fact, Louisiana has already implemented many of these measures through The Road Home program, the Coastal Land Use Toolkit developed by the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority and Center for Planning Excellence, and other flood mitigation programs. Whether behind already-existing levee protection or down on the bayou, nonstructural measures are cost-effective for reducing flood risk to homes and businesses. Every dollar spent on disaster mitigation saves four dollars in recovery costs. This is why the master plan relies so heavily on nonstructural protection.

Elevated house. Credit: TRAC/Terrebonne Readiness & Assistance Coalition

Additionally, nonstructural measures don’t alter natural hydrology, meaning they can work in synergy with large-scale restoration efforts, such as river diversions. Nonstructural measures also work in places where levee protection may already exist, where levees may not be feasible and where federal appropriations or permitting issues may exist.

The Coastal Master Plan’s nonstructural program is based on an analysis of 116 project areas throughout coastal Louisiana. Each area was analyzed for flood risk, building characteristics and adoption of risk reduction measures. The results of this study were used to determine the coast-wide need for risk reduction, the $10.2 billion nonstructural budget and a suite of measures that could be implemented across the coast. The analysis did not result in firm nonstructural plans for each of the 116 project areas. Instead, the goal of the study was to determine the need and budget for a new nonstructural program, not how the nonstructural program would be implemented.

This situation presents both a challenge and an opportunity for local communities and nongovernmental organizations to work with the state as it defines the implementation and budget of the nonstructural program. The master plan study determined that Louisiana’s rural coastal areas will benefit the most from nonstructural protection, so engaging those communities will be essential for success. Also, identifying new and existing funding sources, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program or Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grants, in addition to determining local need coupled with implementation plans, will be vital to the success of the nonstructural program and crucial for a sustainable coastal Louisiana.

All things considered, the Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign enthusiastically supports the 2012 Coastal Master Plan and its balanced approach to restoration and protection. The master plan lays out the foundation for the next 50 years, and now we must work to fund and implement its vision.

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Learning from the Dutch: “Living With Water” Part II

December 8, 2010 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Restoration Projects, Senator Mary Landrieu, The Netherlands

By Elizabeth Skree, Environmental Defense Fund

In our previous post about Senator Landrieu's Third Congressional Delegation to the Netherlands, Courtney Taylor from Environmental Defense Fund provided an overview of the trip, including where the delegation went, what they saw, and how they learned to "live with water."  Many representatives from the non-profit sector attended, including staff from some of our coalition organizations.

The 4-day trip included site tours and meetings with Dutch officials and engineers.  In one of the sessions, the delegation learned how the Dutch had diverted a river, restored the neighboring ecosystem, and taught the locals how to work with the river – not against it – in the "Making Room for the River Project" in Biesbosch.  This project is directly applicable to our work in coastal Louisiana, where coastal erosion and sea level rise are threatening to wash away the region, and major diversion projects are necessary to rebuild a sustainable, working coast for current and future generations of Louisianans.  Learning from the Dutch's successes (and failures), the delegation went home with a new knowledge of how people can live and work with water, whether it be the Rhine or Mississippi River.

Netherlands CODEL, Nov. 9 - 12, 2010 (photo credit:

In addition to Courtney and Karla Raettig from the National Wildlife Federation, Dr. John Lopez from the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation (LPBF) also made the trip across the Atlantic to travel and learn with Senator Landrieu.  John is a coastal scientist who has been working on coastal Louisiana restoration for years, and currently serves as Director of the Coastal Sustainability Program at LPBF.  Upon returning to New Orleans after the trip, John observed: "The Dutch have a complete top-to-bottom commitment to their economy and modern culture by providing a 'continuous improvement' mentality to their flood protection."

But not everything the Dutch have done has been a success.  One example is the loss of fisheries and fisheries-based cultures in the Netherlands.  While they have worked hard to live with the river instead of against it, "It has come at a very high price to their natural environment, which has been nearly completely lost," said Dr. Lopez.  We can learn from the Dutch in this regard, and work with fisheries and other local industries to develop a comprehensive restoration plan for the Mississippi River Delta.  A plan that incorporates environmental measures and the needs of local communities and industries will create a more robust and sustainable Louisiana coast.

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Senator Landrieu Leads Delegation to Netherlands to Learn How Dutch "Live With Water"

December 1, 2010 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Senator Mary Landrieu, The Netherlands

By Courtney Taylor, Environmental Defense Fund

Senator Mary Landrieu led a delegation of representatives from various federal agencies, local governments, businesses and non-profits on a trip across the Netherlands from Nov. 9-13 to study how the Dutch “live with water."  The delegation included representatives from the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, National Wildlife Federation (NWF), Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and the Walton Family Foundation.

Each day included meetings with high-level Dutch officials and informative tours and presentations.  The delegation visited the oldest water board in the Netherlands, the newly-created Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Management; Deltares, and the site of the 1953 flood in Zeeland.  

The delegation also learned about the Dutch approach to protection and resiliency for the next 100 years, the Room for the River program, Rotterdam’s water and climate plan, and “building with nature.”  In between these valuable sessions, the delegation members connected about their work in the Mississippi River Delta over bus rides, meals, coffee and pound cake breaks.

"It was an amazing learning experience and a great opportunity to get to know other people who care passionately about coastal Louisiana," said NWF's Coastal Louisiana Restoration National Campaign Director Karla Raettig.

Please check out the next issue of Delta Dispatches to learn more about some specific lessons learned from members of the delegation.