Nicholls State University, Thibodaux, LA
Gaining Economic Advantage through Environmental Restoration & Hazard Mitigation
Communities benefit financially from investment in projects, technologies, and information that reduce risk from natural hazards. This workshop and the accompanying webinar highlighted specific examples of assessing the financial advantage of mitigation, as well as strategies to cultivate stakeholder support and build upon public-private partnerships. Speakers demonstrated the value of specific planning measures, environmental services, carbon offsets, hazard mitigation, and other risk reduction activities in community comprehensive plans, particularly as leverage and justification for funding.
In early December, the Louisiana Resiliency Assistance Program (LRAP) kicked-off the LRAP Webinar & Workshop Series: Planning for a Resilient Future. The topic of the first paired webinar and workshop was Gaining Economic Advantage through Environmental and Hazard Mitigation. The workshop was held on Tuesday, December 11 at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, LA. Throughout the workshop, the idea that planning challenges, particularly environmental restoration and hazard mitigation, could be reframed as strategies for achieving a community’s economic goals and overall resilience was presented and discussed from a variety of perspectives. A brief overview of the day and a list of the main takeaways are included below.
After a brief introduction, the workshop began with several local speakers introducing planning issues in Lafourche Parish. Next, two keynote speakers presented projects and initiatives that promote environmental restoration and hazard mitigation in innovative ways, followed by an informative Question and Answer session. After lunch, a break-out activity session allowed attendees to discuss some of the projects presented by the speakers and explore how they can help identify solutions to related planning issues.
Jeff Leuenberger, Senior Planner in Lafourche Parish, The State of Planning in Lafourche Parish
Archie Chaisson III, Coastal Zone Management and Permitting Administrator, Coastal Projects
Lu Cutrera, Planner and Landscape Architect at T. Baker Smith, History of Planning in Lafourche Parish
- Lafourche communities are refocusing efforts on the bayou as an economic asset
- Wetland restoration projects can be advanced through partnerships with private and nonprofit organizations (e.g. such as through Ducks Unlimited)
- Port Fourchon is the main economic driver of Lafourche Parish – bringing in more than half of parish tax revenue, although only a small % of parish residents are directly employed there
- Opportunities exist to further capitalize on the benefits of Port Fourchon as well as the needs of non-resident port workers within the parish
Beth Galante, Director of Education and Energy Efficiency, Green Grants
Ms. Galante has worked on mitigation measures and the process of forming innovative partnerships from both the public and private perspective. At the workshop, she focused on solar power and its potential for individual recovery post storms, local resilience, and promoting communities’ economic stability.
Sarah Mack, PhD, Founder and CEO, Tierra Resources
Dr. Mack spoke about the opportunities of wetland restoration for hazard mitigation, wastewater infrastructure, and economic prospects of carbon credits. Dr. Mack drew on her experience as a municipal worker, a researcher, and an entrepreneur to discuss innovative partnerships with businesses and landowners. She also presented future opportunities for realizing the multiple benefits of wetlands.
- Hazard mitigation and environmental restoration can be made higher priorities by demonstrating how these efforts support economic development.
- Consider the source of funding and how to frame initiatives and what language to use to highlight the multiple benefits of a mitigation project.
- There is a need to create win-win partnerships: consider big energy companies and large landowners
- Local governments or businesses can bring together individual land owners, businesses, large industry, etc.
- Incentivize parties that don’t receive direct benefits
- Highlight multiple layers of benefits (a.k.a. “stacking credits”): carbon, CRS, protection, etc.
- Education and outreach are needed to inform communities about new approaches to and opportunities for environmental and hazard mitigation
- Sarah Mack and Beth Galante are available to meet with local communities to discuss their unique opportunities and potential funding options
- Federal, state, and local incentives help make implementing change possible at a large scale
- Solar power provides a great opportunity for powering critical services as well as keeping the (local) economy running during a disaster event
- Solar power should be used in conjunction with other sources of fuel
- Communities should prioritize critical elements of buildings for which to use solar power as a back-up energy source
- Public assistance can back private investments – especially for critical infrastructure
During a break-out session, participants divided themselves by topic to discuss how environmental restoration and hazard mitigation can be viewed not solely as challenges and costs but rather as opportunities and strategies for economic well-being and community resilience. Each group focused on one of four themes: retrofitting homes, valuing undeveloped land, restoring wetlands, and addressing aging and inadequate infrastructure. The discussions focused not only on possible solutions but also on implementation and funding strategies, as well as economic advantages of addressing these issues. Afterwards, a representative from each group gave a brief synopsis of their discussion.