In August 2016, a low-pressure system dropped 22-31" of rain in two days across Louisiana's capital region. Resultant flooding took 13 lives and caused damage to an estimated 156,000 structures. The region was brought to a standstill due to multi-day closures of I-10 and I-12, leading to transportation and economic disruption across the Gulf Coast. Touted as a "one-in-1,000-year flood" this was the third such event in 2016 to hit the southeastern US, and one of nine since 2010 (NOAA NWS, 2016). Climate change predictions indicate these severe precipitation events are likely to increase in frequency and intensity in the future (Prein et al., 2016).
Risks to inland communities in south Louisiana compound ongoing threats to coastal areas from extremely shallow topography, sea level rise, land loss, and increased tropical storm intensities. Louisiana has lost nearly 1,900 square miles of coastal wetlands, and is currently experiencing a land loss rate of over 16 square miles annual. As sea levels rise and shorelines erode, there is a growing recognition that retreat from the coast is preferred or required given significant fiscal, infrastructural, and social constraints on coastal settlement (CPRA 2012, LA OCD, 2015). The increasing convergence of inland and coastal communities (through coastal erosion, sea level rise, rural to urban migration and other factors) is a phenomenon Louisiana is experiencing on an unparalleled scale, though the issue is not unique to the state. Following the storms of the last decade, many residents moved away from the sea to reduce their risk - only to be flooded repeatedly from rain events over inland watersheds.
The project goal is to create a framework to restore and enhance community well-being in the face of extreme weather and climate change, and to support adaptation strategies for sustainable futures. Design practices will be implemented locally as the Baton Rouge region recovers from the devastating floods of 2016. They will also provide a development, policy, and design framework applicable to coupled inland-coastal regions across the Gulf Coast and beyond.