As Louisiana moves forward with a master plan that will outline how and where coastal land loss can be stabilized, residents will have opportunities to tell state officials what’s most important to protect.
During the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Coastal Protection, Restoration and Conservation meeting Wednesday, speakers discussed the tough decisions that lie ahead in the process, meaning not everyone will get everything they want.
“And, we realize politically it’s going to be really hard to make those decisions,” said Steve Mathies, executive director of the Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration.
Numerous teams of state, federal, non-government groups and university scientists are working on how these decisions will be made, Mathies said, but that there is a vision of what the coast could look like and it’s “not a secret.”
However, the teams are developing tools that will be used to evaluate coastal restoration and protection projects, Mathies said, and the state wants those “tools” accepted first before laying out what the ultimate vision is to the public.
Mathies explained if the state lays out that vision before having the tools in place and someone sees “my community doesn’t have 500-year protection” from hurricanes, they will say the tools used to make the decisions were wrong.
“They’ll kill the plan before it’s even released,” he said. “And that will kill Louisiana.”
Although the 2012 master plan being developed builds on the previous 2007 master plan, this one includes computer modeling of how groups of projects, such as freshwater diversion or marsh building, will work together.
These results are going to be put into a prioritization tool that will help show which groups of projects provide the specific types of benefits that are desired, said Bren Haase, with the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.
“So you evaluate them as a group, not as an individual project,” he said. “This is all about selecting a robust suite of projects to be built.”
Advisory commission member Ted Falgout asked how so many competing uses of the coastal area from shrimp to oysters to navigation will be weighted and prioritized.
There’s no way to have a major freshwater diversion project and a healthy oyster area in the same place, he said.
“At the end of the day it’s going to come down to tradeoffs,” Falgout said.
Some information on how much weight to give different coastal functions will come from public input at upcoming meetings, Haase said.
Ultimately, he said, the state will need to make those decisions.
The draft master plan is expected to be released sometime in January, Haase said.