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Governor Jindal and BRAF Announce Plans for World-Class Campus to Foster Coastal Expertise

December 17, 2013

The Water Campus to Serve as Multi-Disciplinary Hub for Solution-Oriented Coastal Research and Engineering

Today, Governor Bobby Jindal, officials from the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), Department of Economic Development and the Baton Rouge Area Foundation (BRAF) joined leaders from the City of Baton Rouge, The Water Institute of the Gulf, Louisiana State University and other coastal research institutes to unveil plans for the establishment of The Water Campus in Baton Rouge. The campus will serve as a hub for public, private, non-profit and academic coastal sectors to collaborate and develop innovative solutions for challenges that affect Louisiana’s coastal communities and wetlands. The government, academic and private sector collaboration will then allow these solutions to be exported to other coastal areas and communities across the world. The Water Campus will also serve as a catalyst to link downtown Baton Rouge with LSU, providing tremendous economic development opportunities for the Capital Region.

Governor Jindal said, “This new campus is great news for our state and coastal communities across the globe as they begin to face coastal sustainability pressures. This campus will help us pool expertise and resources from the public and private sectors to develop innovative coastal solutions that will build upon the coastal investment foundation we’ve already set in place. We significantly increased investment in coastal protection and restoration since 2008, investing more in the last six years than any other period in our state’s history. These investments have provided for the construction of more levees, barrier islands, flood gates and wetlands than ever before and have furthered our efforts to understand the uncertainties associated with complex coastal sustainability projects. While tremendous progress has been made, we must continue addressing the root causes of the coastal crisis facing Louisiana. This new campus will build upon our investments, and will provide an unprecedented collaboration of expertise right here in Baton Rouge. This new campus is a critical next step in securing the future of our coastal communities and our economy.

“With hurricanes and other natural and man-made disasters that have frequently impacted our state, we must continue to build upon our coastal improvements by making investments in projects like this new Water Campus – which will be guided by the best science available to further protect our people and our coast. The science, engineering, and technology that we are developing here in south Louisiana are not just related to individual coastal projects. They are related to a new and growing industry in our state. Indeed, what is a multi-billion dollar coastal sector in Louisiana is going to be a multi-trillion industry worldwide – and the new campus will help us cultivate that industry and become a pipeline for coastal expertise. We’ll be able to provide students and researchers at different universities the opportunity to unify their efforts and find innovative coastal solutions together in a world class facility.”

The development of the Water Campus will be funded through a partnership between the State of Louisiana, the City of Baton Rouge and the Baton Rouge Area Foundation. The initial phase of development includes the dedication of approximately 30 acres of land and the investment of approximately $45 million for the construction of three facilities. The planned facilities include a new education and research center on the old Baton Rouge Municipal dock and the River Modeling Center, which will feature one of the largest and most accurate moving physical river models in the world. The campus will also feature an office building to house CPRA and other coastal researchers. An integrated community focused on researching, engineering and implementing solutions to protect coastal communities and sustain coastal wetlands will position Louisiana as a world leader in the development of coastal solutions and expertise that will continue to be exported to address coastal concerns around the globe.

The campus will also help water management become a true economic-driver industry in Louisiana that results in tens of thousands of new, sustained jobs. Working with McKinsey & Company, Louisiana Economic Development determined that the water management sector alone has the potential to result in 10,000 to 20,000 direct jobs, as well as 10,000 to 25,000 indirect jobs, for a total job impact of 20,000 to 45,000 jobs in Louisiana through 2030. This includes jobs associated with managing Louisiana’s water management projects as well as jobs associated with expertise developed here that will be marketed around the world.

“The location presents a unique opportunity to act as a catalyst to implement numerous planning initiatives such as Plan BR I & II; the Riverfront Master Plan, Old South Baton Rouge Master Plan; Nicholson Drive Corridor Study; Future BR and The LSU Master Plan. The Water Campus rests at the intersection of these planning efforts, providing an international intellectual destination that will bring people and critical resources to this area,” said John Davies, President & CEO of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation. “The campus will be comprised of land purchased from East Baton Rouge Housing Authority, a 13 acre parcel donated from the State of Louisiana, approximately 11 acres that include the old City Dock from the City of Baton Rouge. Another large parcel owned by engaged stakeholders such as Mike Wampold, a friend of the foundation, will be privately developed consistent with the Water Campus Master Plan.”

“Louisiana Economic Development strongly supports the development of the water management sector as one of nine key industries that are crucial for the optimum growth and development of our state,” LED Secretary Stephen Moret said. “We can’t think of a better springboard for success in this critical area than a master-planned campus that combines the strengths of the Water Institute of the Gulf, the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, Louisiana’s research universities, and collaboration with the more than 120 Louisiana firms that already pursue professional work related to Gulf Coast restoration and water resource management. This campus has the potential to catapult Louisiana into a leadership role in coastal restoration and a prime position in the water management industry in North America. We believe that The Water Campus will make a major contribution toward enabling the water management sector to result in roughly 20,000 to 45,000 new jobs in Louisiana from now through 2030, as we address Louisiana’s critical water management challenges while exporting our growing water management expertise around the world.”

To meet increasing demands of the coastal sector, Louisiana has seen significant growth in academic, public and private coastal industry capacity. The state has invested tens of millions of dollars in Louisiana college and university research partnerships to help guide coastal investments. The state has also dedicated hundreds of millions of dollars for engineering and geotechnical assistance relating to coastal efforts. With the size and complexity of future projects included in the 2012 Coastal Master Plan, there will be even greater, more complex coastal issues to address. Continuing to invest in professionals, students and tools will be key to sustaining Louisiana’s coast, as well as securing Louisiana’s role as a primary developer and exporter of coastal knowledge and solutions.

“The Water Institute of the Gulf is proud to be a part of this landmark project. Our thanks go to Governor Jindal, the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, the City Parish and others who have played a leadership role leading to this announcement,” says Chip Groat, President and CEO of The Water Institute of the Gulf. “The Water Campus will serve as a hub for innovation and collaboration by assembling experts in numerous fields and sectors to develop solutions for the coastal, river, and water resource challenges we face here in Louisiana, throughout the Gulf Coast and beyond.”

CPRA Chair Garret Graves said, “The loss of south Louisiana communities, industry and seafood to hurricanes, floods and erosion is the greatest threat facing our state today. Some projections put the coast of our state just south of Baton Rouge by 2100. Simply put, that isn’t an option. Today, the investment decision is about whether we want Louisiana to lead the world in proactive efforts to protect communities and restore coastal habitats for fish and wildlife or we want to have flooded homes and businesses with every storm. We can choose to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in Louisiana’s colleges, universities and companies to help innovate solutions in a collaborative manner, or we can take a disparate approach where bits and pieces of the knowledge and expertise are lost. It is about setting the state on a path to have science rather than politics guide future hurricane protection, flood control and coastal restoration decisions.”

Since 2008, over $18 billion in state, federal, local, private and not-for-profit investments have been supported to protect and restore Louisiana’s coast. The creation of the Water Campus is the next step in a series of proactive measures that the Jindal Administration has taken to enhance collaboration and fundamentally restructure the state’s coastal program to maximize progress and productivity. Actions taken by the Jindal Administration since 2008 include:

  • Signed legislation to create the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA). Coastal restoration scientists and engineers from the Department of Natural Resources were effectively merged with the levee engineers from the Department of Transportation and Development to form the CPRA, which contains 165 positions;
  • The State utilized an unprecedented amount of scientific and engineering expertise to develop the 2012 Coastal Master Plan update;
  • The Water Institute of the Gulf was established, which is an independent research institute dedicated to advancing the understanding of coastal, deltaic, river and water resources.