Systematically Prioritizing Restoration Projects in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana
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Posted byKirsten Feifel
The Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) first developed a statewide coastal restoration and hurricane protection plan in 2007. To assess implementation strategies at the local level, Terrebonne Parish scaled state-level recommendations to community-level actions and priorities. The final report—the Comprehensive Plan for Coastal Restoration in Terrebonne Parish—presents a systematic way to rate restoration and protection projects against recommendations released by the Louisiana CPRA. The Terrebonne Parish Office of Coastal Restoration and Preservation is using the report to prioritize projects and to attain grants for future projects.
After the 2005 hurricane season, the Louisiana State Legislature created the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) to coordinate federal, state, and local efforts to achieve sustainable, long-term coastal restoration projects. In 2007, the CPRA released the Integrated Ecosystem Restoration and Hurricane Protection: Louisiana’s Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast (Master Plan), which outlined key steps to increase the resilience of coastal Louisiana, such as restoring sustainability to the Mississippi Delta, Atchafalaya Delta, and Chenier Plain, and developing hurricane protection structural and non-structural measures.
To realize the vision articulated in the Master Plan and to provide a local perspective, Terrebonne Parish, the second largest parish in Louisiana, created the Comprehensive Plan for Coastal Restoration in Terrebonne Parish (CPCR) in partnership with Halcrow, Inc. (acquired by CH2M in 2011). Terrebonne Parish is characterized by its vast salt marshes and barrier islands along the south-central Louisiana coast. The parish has lost roughly 340 square miles of coastal land since 1956 at a rate of 10 square miles per year due to changes in sediment deposition, land subsidence, sea level rise, and variable ocean-land dynamics. The CPCR also qualifies as the federally required update to the parish’s Coastal Zone Management Act.
A combination of interviews and questionnaires were used to assess the community’s knowledge base, interests, and priorities in coastal restoration. The CPCR was a standing agenda item at monthly community meetings, and some meetings were held privately to solicit stakeholder input and support throughout the process. The guiding objectives of the CPCR are to:
- increase the integrity of the barrier island systems along the coast;
- increase the vertical accretion of wetland soils;
- increase the diversity of coastal habitats; and
- reduce development in vulnerable wetland areas.
The plan presents a strategic, transparent, and well-defined decision-making framework to prioritize and select coastal restoration and protection projects, particularly in light of sea level rise and land subsidence rates. The CPCR explains the rationale and process taken to develop the new decision-making tool in detail. In short, a census of ongoing and planned restoration projects was completed and ranked based upon key objectives and metrics that would enhance the resilience of the coastal system. These criteria included factors such as cost-effectiveness, timeliness, robustness, and longevity. The criteria and resulting list of ranked ongoing or proposed restoration projects provides decision-makers with a tool to guide their choices and systematically support those projects that offer long-term solutions to future problems.
The CPCR also recommends that the Parish:
- implement an adaptive management system that updates the CPCR to incorporate new information and priorities;
- enhance the local government’s decision-making tools and authority;
- increase the pace of restoration;
- promote non-structural flood protection programs;
- find ways to proceed with projects despite scientific uncertainties;
- advance the science of restoration techniques and technologies; and
- improve regional coordination of restoration projects.
Outcomes and Conclusions
The CPCR was created in response to recommendations released by Louisiana’s Coastal Zone Management and Restoration Advisory Committee. The Terrebonne Parish Office of Coastal Restoration and Preservation is using the CPCR to help justify and obtain grants to implement priority projects. The CPCR has also allowed the parish to communicate its local restoration priorities with state and federal agencies.
The success of the CPCR was a direct result of its foundation. First, the funding agency, the Terrebonne Parish Office of Coastal Restoration and Preservation, was explicit in their desire to create a scientifically-based guidance document for community leaders; they did not have an interest in guiding the answer. Second, soliciting stakeholder input and engagement through the questionnaire and in community meetings early on in the process led to stronger community support for the resulting document. The myriad federal, state, and local coastal restoration programs and planning efforts in coastal Louisiana made it difficult to create a universally applicable document. Navigating federal and state bureaucracies and overlapping policies can hinder coastal restoration efforts at the local level.
Terrebonne Parish released an Adaptation Strategy in 2019, which includes coastal restoration and protection projects as core activities, particularly as the state is losing land faster than it can be restored. Funds to support the implementation of coastal restoration projects in the area include the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act, Coastal Impact Assistance Program, Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, and the Louisiana Coastal Area Study. In 2017, Terrebonne Parish released its Multiyear Implementation Plan to implement two projects eligible for funding from the RESTORE Act (Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act). Since 2007, the statewide CPRA has funded over 150 projects, benefiting over 46,000 acres of coastal habitat. CPRA has adopted an adaptive management approach overtime to support address the complexities and uncertainties associated with climate change-driven coastal impacts.
Feifel, K. (2020). Systematically Prioritizing Restoration Projects in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana [Case study on a project of the Terrebonne Parish Consolidated Government and Halcrow]. Version 2.0. Product of EcoAdapt’s State of Adaptation Program. (Last updated July 2020)