Helping Residents in Coastal Communities to Adapt to Land Loss

January 18, 2013

New Orleans, LA | January 18, 2013 – With support from a partnership between the Greater New Orleans Foundation (GNOF) and the Ford Foundation, the Center for Planning Excellence (CPEX) will work with local, state, and national entities to identify what Louisiana’s coastal towns and settlements need in order to adapt to the many challenge brought on by living in a risky coastal environment. A $200,000 grant from GNOF will support the project for two years.

“The levee system is not sufficient to protect our fragile coastal communities over the long term,” said Marco Cocito-Monoc, GNOF’s director for regional initiatives. “The landscape along the coast is drastically changing, which threatens an entire way of life for the people who live and work there. Adaptation is essential.”

The project will help educate residents on the perils they face, what their options are, and what tools they will need in order to adapt. The Coastal Master Plan, recently updated by the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), clearly identified a need for more human-centered approaches to helping communities cope with land loss, especially in sections of Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes.

Options for adaptation may include innovative approaches to how residences and commerical buildings are built; how stormwater flows from parking lots, roads, and roofs, and; how certain native plants can aid in protection and preservation.

The diverse communities that live along Louisiana’s coast are known for their resiliency. Many have lived and worked there for generations. For the people who live along the coast, land loss poses a threat to their homes, livelihoods, and entire communities. Due to many factors, including the devastating hurricanes of recent years and the costs of rebuilding from them, the 2010 oil spill, frequent flooding, rising insurance costs, and more, living in these coastal areas has become increasingly difficult.

The State of Louisiana is implementing an ambitious plan to slow and reverse land loss and restore the natural environment. Many federal, state, and local entities, including CPEX, are focusing efforts on large-scale projects to protect the future of our coast. While projects such as restoring wetlands and building levees are important, they do not by themselves adequately address the needs of the people who live in these vanishing communities.

“This project takes a human-centered approach to helping Louisiana’s threatened coastal communities create customized plans for their future,” said Camille Manning-Broome, director of planning at CPEX. “With this grant, CPEX will compile the best knowledge and expertise in the field so that coastal communities can adapt to the reality of wetlands loss and make informed decisions about how best to move forward.”

“Currently there is no single entity to which people can turn for information on how to adapt to these environmental changes,” said Cocito-Monoc. “Moving inland may be the best option for some, whereas others may make changes that will make them safer staying where they are. These difficult conversations should be informed by the very best expertise in the field.”

Currently the project is 100 percent funded by private philanthropy. However, as strategies are selected and implemented by each community, federal dollars may become available for specific projects.

“As federal and state entities are making important decisions regarding large-scale flood protection and wetland restoration projects, it is the role of philanthropy to help identify and advocate for the human needs of our region,” said Albert Ruesga, president and CEO of the Greater New Orleans Foundation. “This grant will help our coastal communities to move forward in an uncertain time.”

Louisiana’s wetlands provide a vital habitat for 95 percent of the marine species in the Gulf of Mexico. They also serve as a storm buffer, reducing the impact of hurricanes that strike the Gulf Coast. With its abundant fishing, hunting, and oil and gas resources, coastal Louisiana helps drive the nation’s economy. But this bountiful coastal ecosystem is being destroyed. The combination of land subsidence and sea level rise is causing a catastrophic loss of these coastal wetlands. Louisiana has lost an estimated 1,900 square miles of coastal wetlands since 1932.

About the Center for Planning Excellence
The Center for Planning Excellence (CPEX) works toward a vision of every community in Louisiana made extraordinary through planning excellence.

About the Greater New Orleans Foundation
The Greater New Orleans Foundation is the community foundation serving the 13-parish Greater New Orleans region. We design and lead initiatives that improve the region, connect donors to community needs, identify and support great nonprofits, and strengthen civil society.