Resilient Coast, Resilient People
If it’s one thing that defines Louisiana’s coastal residents, it’s our resilience. For hundreds of years, intrepid and hard-working individuals have made their homes and their livelihoods alongside an ever-changing coast, facing adversity with an unflinching resolve. They celebrate all that is good about the coast, and brace for the worst of what the weather brings. When faced with unspeakable tragedies like hurricanes, they rebuild their lives and continue to thrive, all the while growing coastal Louisiana into the economic engine and cultural melting pot that it is today. The Louisiana coast is a reflection of the people who call it home – dynamic and unique. Our coast is facing real threats right now, and with so much at stake, it can seem like an insurmountable challenge. However, there is hope for a bright future.
In 2012, areas of LaPlace, Louisiana experienced devastating floods associated with Hurricane Isaac, and more than 7,000 homes in the area were impacted by the storm surge from Lake Pontchartrain. This exemplifies a prime opportunity to improve resilience in a coastal area to reduce risk for people who live and work in impacted areas just west of New Orleans. As part of the Louisiana’s 2017 Coastal Master Plan, the West Shore Lake Pontchartrain Hurricane Risk Reduction project aims to provide increased protection to people and property in surrounding areas such as LaPlace, Reserve and Garyville and once implemented, which translates to reduced storm-surge related flooding. Funded as part of the Hurricane & Storm Damage Risk Reduction System (HSDRRS), the West Shore project will provide an added layer of defense to residents in and around LaPlace, and will also improve resilience of communities on the western shores of Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Maurepas.
Addressing Multiple FactorsThe $760 million West Shore project will construct 17.5 miles of levee and one mile of T-wall (which includes four pumping stations and two drainage structures) from the Mississippi River in Garyville to the Bonnet Carre spillway. The project is design to deliver an added layer of protection from tropical storm surge.
The West Shore project will benefit the residents from Garyville to LaPlace, and it is also one project in part of a larger plan to help reduce risk and improve resiliency. Solving a complex problem often requires more than one-dimensional solutions, which is why CPRA takes an integrated and systems approach to projects. For example, marsh restorations and levee protection systems are great examples of how a restoration project and a risk reduction project can work in tandem as a holistic “system” to deliver protection against tropical storm surge.
For the West Shore project, project synergy will come in the form of a shared border with the River Reintroduction into Maurepas Swamp project, which will reestablish and nourish approximately 45,000 acres of the swamp, with freshwater, nutrients and sediment that historically sustained it. Together, these projects will provide a greater level of protection than if only one was implemented. The West Shore Project will provide a first line of defense to knock down storm surge and the Maurepas Swamp project will provide a robust and healthy swamp that will act as an added buffer to further reduce the storm surge flood impact for low-lying areas.
The Maurepas Swamp project, highlighted in yellow, below will introduce nutrient-rich water from the Mississippi River into the swamp area through the blue channel:
As Hurricane Isaac demonstrated, communities on the west shore of Lake Pontchartrain are at an increased risk to tropical storm surge flooding due to wetland loss and relative sea level rise. Without levees, the area remains susceptible to damages from tropical storm surge. With an increasing population due to suburban and industrial development along the river corridor between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, more people and businesses are at risk than ever before.
Bottom Line Impacts
While the devastation from tropical storm surge flooding has significant economic impacts on a community (to say nothing of the human suffering and loss of homes and businesses), flooding also presents significant costs to communities. As coastal residents are well aware, flood insurance can be an enormous expense, often too much to afford for some families. The areas impacted by Isaac required flood insurance before the storm, but according to The New Orleans Advocate, annual rates jumped by approximately 400 percent in some impacted areas. Parish officials believe these new measures to protect residents from flooding may help reduce high flood insurance costs. This translates to more dollars in the pockets of area residents, and lower costs for business owners. The overall aim is a more resilient working coast for all of south Louisiana.
Complex Problems, Complex Solutions
While the West Shore and Maurepas Swamp projects are vital to help reduce flood risk in this area, there are additional solutions to consider. Part of Louisiana’s 2017 Coastal Master Plan calls for the development of a comprehensive Flood Risk and Resilience Program (FRRP) which provides information to coastal communities and businesses to help them make decisions at the local level to reduce risk and improve resilience. Options may suggest that non-residential structures be flood proofed, to prevent water damage and that residential structures be elevated to lift them out of harm’s way from rising waters. Such decisions can be tough and costly. What may be best decisions for one community may not apply to another. Each coastal community presents with their own unique situations and the FRRP provides suggestions and resources for individual communities to consider. While the West Shore recommends FRRP options for a small handful of business and residential structures to reduce risk and improve resiliency, the decision to make those changes will be made by the owners impacted.
Complex Problems, Complex Solutions
While the work being done on the West Shore and Maurepas Swamp projects are vital in helping reduce flood risk in this area, those two projects alone aren’t the only solutions that must be considered. Part of CPRA’s 2017 Coastal Master Plan calls for the development of a comprehensive Flood Risk and Resilience Program that aims to give communities the information needed to make the right decisions on a very local level. This program can help families and businesses determine if additional steps are needed to protect themselves from further risk. Some options may include floodproofing non-residential structures to make them more resilient to water damage, or elevating residential structures to place them out of the range of rising waters. Such decisions can be tough and costly, which is why CPRA provides the information people need to make the best decisions for their unique situations. While the West Shore project does recommend these options for a small handful of business and residential structures, the decision to make those changes will be made by the owners impacted.
Become a Coastal Advocate!
Want to know more about what you can do to help CPRA protect our coast? Visit our website to find out more, and sign up for updates on this project and many others across the state!