Systematically Prioritizing Restoration Projects in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana
The Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) developed a statewide coastal restoration and hurricane protection plan in 2007. To assess implementation strategies at the local level, Terrebonne Parish hired a consultant to produce a report that scaled state-level recommendations to community-level actions and priorities. The final report, the Comprehensive Plan for Coastal Restoration in Terrebonne Parish, was released in 2009. It primarily developed 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.
Terrebonne Parish is located along the coast in south central Louisiana and is characterized by its vast salt marsh networks and barrier islands. Since 1956, the parish has lost roughly 340 square miles of coastal land, averaging 10 square miles per year, due to changes in sediment deposition, land subsidence, sea level rise, and variable ocean/land dynamics.
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 Integrated Ecosystem Restoration and Hurricane Protection: Louisiana’s Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast (Master Plan). This living document outlines key steps necessary to increase the resilience of coastal Louisiana. Specific, desired outcomes include:
- restoring sustainability to the Mississippi Delta,
- restoring sustainability to the 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, wrote the Comprehensive Plan for Coastal Restoration in Terrebonne Parish (CPCR) in 2009. The CPCR also qualifies as the federally required update to the parish’s Coastal Zone Management Act. To develop the CPCR, a global engineering firm with a specialty in floodplain management, Halcrow, was hired to coordinate the project.
Halcrow produced an anonymous questionnaire which was distributed to local officials and stakeholders to assess what the community's knowledge base, interests, and priorities were; roughly 30 were returned. 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. To increase the resilience of the parish, the CPCR outlines four objectives:
- increase the integrity of the barrier island systems along the coast;
- increase the accretion of wetland soils;
- increase the diversity of coastal habitats; and
- reduce development in vulnerable wetland areas.
Over the next 5-10 years, these objectives will be achieved by implementing a strategic, transparent, and well-defined decision-making framework to prioritize and select restoration and protection projects. 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. The resulting list of 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.
Beyond the project ranking tool utilized in the CPCR, 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 attain and justify small 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, engineering sound document that provided tangible guidance to 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 of federal, state, and local coastal restoration programs and planning efforts in coastal Louisiana made it difficult to create a document that was applicable to all; the fractured nature of coastal restoration efforts precludes a unifying document. Navigating the federal and state bureaucracies and overlapping policies can hinder coastal restoration efforts at the local level. To address this problem, Louisiana has created a new office for coastal and restoration programs which will work towards integrating and aligning agency coastal restoration efforts.
Feifel, K. (2010). Systematically Prioritizing Restoration Projects in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana [Case study on a project of the Terrebonne Parish Consolidated Government and Halcrow]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE: http://www.cakex.org/case-studies/systematically-prioritizing-restoratio... (Last updated February 2010)