Coastal Master Plan 101 Part Three: CRCL’s Take

The need for a Coastal Master Plan for Louisiana was never made clearer than in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.  The vast levels of damage to our coast, flooding in our cities and lives lost to these tragedies revealed the weakened state of our coastal buffer against hurricanes, and the lack of a coordinated strategy for reducing risk to communities while restoring our degraded coast.

This is the need for a Coastal Master Plan at its most dramatic, and basic level.  Louisiana needs a plan that is specific in nature about how it will restore our coastline and protect our communities, making the most responsible use of available financial and natural resources.  The 2012 Coastal Master Plan is the best strategic approach to date for addressing this need.  The Master Plan is a big step forward in outlining the exact methods and tactics needed to not only protect our coast, but sustain it in its traditional role as a natural wonder, cultural wellspring and economic driver.

The importance of having this type of plan cannot be underestimated in terms of earning federal support for coastal restoration.  A plan this science-driven and technically robust will do much to gain the attention of those who control the funding necessary to rebuild our coast and protect Louisiana’s people.

CRCL is also greatly encouraged by the transparent nature of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority of Louisiana (CPRA) in constructing the 2012 Coastal Master Plan.

This graph shows the flood risk reduction value of the 2012 Coastal Master Plan vs. the result of a future without action. Graphic courtesy of 2012 Draft Coastal Master Plan.

One of CPRA’s primary tasks in constructing the Master Plan was to make tough decisions based on model projections of a Future Without Action (FWOA) and limited funding.  CRCL finds that CPRA set appropriate goals of maximum land building and maximum risk reduction, considering limited funding and the relative uncertainty associated with the 50-year planning horizon.

Then there is the question of how to be fair to all citizens across the coast.   The 2012 Coastal Master Plan sets forth an unbiased methodology to do that, focusing on the most protection for the most people based on population density.  While this is not a perfect process, it must be recognized that it is the most thorough, scientifically-based and transparent effort to achieve this goal to date.

The 2012 Coastal Master offers a blueprint that could result in a net land GAIN within the next 30 years. Graphic courtesy of 2012 Draft Coastal Master Plan.

CRCL agrees with the decision criteria driving the evaluation of projects slated for the Coastal Master Plan: sustainability, use of natural processes, and planning at a landscape scale.  Sustainability refers to the persistence of benefits or the ability of a project to maintain or increase benefits over time.  The use of natural processes is critical not just for creating a natural healthy system, but also important for reducing operation and maintenance costs of many projects.  With regard to scale, we believe it is appropriate to plan for projects which affect more than 500 acres.  Restoration projects of the past were simply not large enough to combat the enormous amount of land-loss.  We must embrace significant and aggressive land-building at scales much larger than we’ve previously attempted and the Coastal Master Plan is a bold step in that direction.

Of course, no plan can be all things to all people, and CRCL believes the Coastal Master Plan could be improved in certain areas.  It is still not clear how the Plan works with some other critical pieces of coastal restoration, such as the Coastal Annual Plan and other federal planning efforts like LCA, CWPPRA and BP recovery and restoration efforts.  Within the plan, many of the implementation strategies for adaptive management and non-structural programs are conceptual programs that lack organizational structure and a clear framework for implementation.  We praise the state’s ambition, and hope that the needs of these programs are being considered.  Evacuation, for example, is a non-structural element we believe should be given more consideration in the Coastal Master Plan.  The Coastal Master Plan should also do more to define and outline local responsibility that would foster more informed decision making at the community level.

Sediment diversions from the Mississippi River are the tool with the most potential for dramatic returns on land-building investment. Graphic courtesy of 2012 Draft Coastal Master Plan.

Overall, CRCL supports the plan and the ambitious efforts of the planning team.   There are many significant wins for our coast within the plan.  At least 50% of funds will go toward restoration.  Risk reduction strategies reduce our annual damages and split funding equally between structural and non-structural protection.  This is the first time in the history of this issue that there is a plan in place for a net gain in land.  The engagement of the Mississippi River as a significant restoration tool is also a critical feature. We are also encouraged by CPRA’s willingness to listen to the feedback of citizens in composing its final draft.

In short, the 2012 Coastal Master Plan is an objective, scientific and coordinated set of projects which will continue to grow, with continued revisions every 5 years as required by the Legislature.  The 2012 Coastal Master Plan is a solid starting point from which to build our coastal restoration strategy as a state.

The public comment period on the 2012 Coastal Master Plan draft ended February 25th.  Currently, public feedback is being incorporated into the plan, which CPRA submits to for legislative approval on March 26.

This leads us into our fourth and final installment of Coastal Master Plan 101:  the Legislative Process.

Be sure to check out the official draft of the 2012 Coastal Master Plan.  It’s available as a free download from the CPRA website, (here).

Also… be sure to read Parts One and Two of Coastal Master Plan 101.  Part One takes a look at the plan’s construction.  Part Two examines the projects in line for each of Louisiana’s three coastal zones.

 

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