Monday, August 29, 2011

Who, What, When, Why and How of Louisiana's 2012 Coastal Master Plan

Alaina Owens (Brown and Caldwell)

Who: The plan is being developed by the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. In all, over 100 people are involved in the planning effort. The state has established a variety of ways for government staff, industry representatives, non governmental organizations, members of academia, citizens, and other stakeholders to participate in the process.

Levee/floodwall construction

What: The 2012 Master Plan will offer a comprehensive approach to coastal restoration and risk reduction in coastal Louisiana. The Plan focuses on the following five overarching objectives:

  1. Reduce economic losses from storm based flooding to residential, public, industrial, and commercial infrastructure.
  2. Promote a sustainable coastal ecosystem by harnessing the processes of the natural system.
  3. Provide habitats suitable to support an array of commercial and recreational activities coast-wide.
  4. Sustain, to the extent practicable, the unique cultural heritage of coastal Louisiana by protecting historic properties and traditional living cultures and their ties and relationships to the natural environment.
  5. Promote a viable working coast to support regionally and nationally important business and industry.

Barrier island restoration

When: The plan will be submitted to the Louisiana State Legislature for approval in the spring of 2012. By legislative mandate, the plan must be updated every five years so the state can respond to changes on the ground as well as innovations in science, engineering, and policy. Louisiana’s 2012 Coastal Master Plan is the second of what will be an ongoing series of master plans, each one improving on work done before.

Marsh creation

Why: The wetlands of coastal Louisiana help protect communities and critical oil and gas infrastructure from storm surge, support waterborne commerce for the nation, and provide a substantial portion of the nation’s commercial fisheries landings. The coast’s expanse of natural habitats makes it one of the nation’s most unique and valuable landscapes. Unfortunately, Louisiana’s wetlands are being lost at an alarming rate, with an estimated loss of nearly 2,000 square miles since the 1930s.

How: The 2012 Coastal Master Plan is grounded in a coastal “vision.” The vision specifies levels of flood risk reduction for communities and targets for ecosystem services across the coast. A suite of seven predictive models is being used to predict how far various restoration and/or protection projects can move the state toward achieving its vision. Model output, combined with a set of decision criteria (factors that reflect what is important to the state), feed a decision support tool that compares the effects of projects and groups of projects. This information will help state decision makers identify projects that provide the most benefit.

Example project types include levee / floodwall construction, barrier island restoration, and marsh creation. River diversions, hydrologic restoration, shoreline protection and bank stabilization projects are also being analyzed as part of the 2012 Master Plan update.

The use of predictive models in formulating Louisiana's coastal Master Plans relates to Topic 5: Dynamic ecosystems to be discussed during the Synthesis Sessions at CERF 2011.  You can hear more on the specific topic of this post in session SCI-010 - Challenges and Innovative Methods Integrating Science and Coastal Decision Making.

For more information on the Louisiana Master Plan go to, or email –

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