FFL supports the completion of the Plaquemines Resilience Planning Framework

Lousiana’s

LEAD (Leadership, Education, Advocacy, Development) the Coast was developed to enhance local capacity and recognize the thought leadership, traditional knowledge, and valuable input that exists within a community.

Louisiana’s coastal crisis creates a spectrum of issues and opportunities, the effects of these environmental challenges often worsening existing socioeconomic stressors in our communities.

In the summer and fall of 2016, Foundation for Louisiana led the charge to support Plaquemines residents in the design of their own coastal community engagement and planning process. Building on the many efforts ongoing across the region, a single question defines the scope of that important work:

“If we were to fund a parish-wide planning process that was truly equitable and inclusive, to be able to acknowledge the risks of land loss and the future risks, needs and opportunities, what would that look like?”

Working within the Coastal Resiliency Leverage Fund and through the support of the Rockefeller Foundation, residents have had the opportunity to answer that complex question and through the co-design a collaborative engagement and planning process. The foundation is growing and developing relationships with a variety of stakeholders — including residents, regional experts, government agencies and community organizations — to find thoughtful ways to answer this question and help provide Louisiana’s coastal communities with a realistic path toward resilience in light of a continually shrinking coastline. Meetings between the Support Team and the Core Committee were documented in the resilience planning framework found here.

The Core Committee is comprised of local leaders ranging from school board members to engaged fishermen, faith-based leaders and homeowner associations to the neighbor whose voice is recognized and respected as they remain informed. A Support Team meant to assist the process includes outreach and communications teams within regional coastal coalitions, previous participants in more traditional planning efforts, leaders in racial equity, environmental justice and climate change adaptation. FFL staff and partners invited a broad range of community members from Plaquemines Parish, to better identify challenges and opportunities, and creating open dialogue about possible solutions for residents. As a part of the framework that was created, the need to grow sustainable local knowledge and leadership was identified and methods to do so designed.

“This project evolved out of frustrations we hear from residents and our community partners — by the time they see a plan, they feel like all of the decisions have already been made. Though there may have been options for input, some residents may not have been able to participate or feel like the opportunities were not enough or were unable to get to the meeting because of the time or lack of transportation,” Williams said. “This is really to create an opportunity for residents to be able to come to that table early on, and have a say in what happens — what types of projects for the built environment receive investment in their communities – projects that are risk-aware and averse, cost effective, resilient with multiple benefits. This process acknowledges that parts of Louisiana will continue to see very high rates of land loss, mean that communities are going to be faced with some very challenging decisions.

Throughout, the goal remains focused on including citizens in the planning process, which presented another challenge: “How can we grow that local knowledge,” Williams asked, “and ensure that residents have a say in planning decisions that are being made about their future?” There is a need for more information at a local level on coastal issues and opportunities, government players involved and the work they are doing alongside growing organizing needs, leadership skills, advocacy and facilitation training.

LEAD (Leadership, Education, Advocacy, Development) the Coast was developed to enhance local capacity and recognize the thought leadership, traditional knowledge, and valuable input that exists within a community. It is an opportunity for residents to become more informed about their future as it relates to coastal land loss and to become an organizer and facilitator around conversations related to this within their communities. More information on the LEAD the Coast program can be found here.

Both Darilyn Turner and Katrina Williams, members of FFL’s first cohort of LEAD the Coast in Plaquemines, expressed some anxiety about planning processes that include so many high-level officials, and hope for a process that is inclusive and equitable for everyone. So far, they like what they see.

“When you come in and make decisions for a community and do not engage with that community, it’s a form of disrespect,” said Katrrina Williams, a child of a military veteran. She’s not a Plaquemines native, having graduated from West Jefferson High in Jefferson Parish. But she’s become deeply rooted in the coastal communities’ situation — and the wariness of outside influences. “It’s like somebody else disciplining your child. Even though I’m not a resident of Plaquemines, it’s important for me to see how you feel.

“Hopefully when we reconvene, we can work more closely together now that we know who we are, and who we work for, and how we can start collaborating moving forward. Now I hope we all understand why we’re here. We are all these important pieces in this big collaborative puzzle. We all need each other.”

Turner nodded her head in agreement.

“We’re actually on the ground and we see,” Turner pointed out. “We have eye-level contact with what’s going on in our communities. We need some of these folks here to get out of their suits and ties and get on our fishing boots and see the lives that we lead.”

FFL’s Liz Williams the time is right to create a larger, broader effort. The next phase will leverage the work FFL started in Plaquemines into several other parishes: “LEAD the Coast is only one piece of this work. The foundation also expects to launch at scale resilience planning efforts to begin to get a group of design ideas across the built environment in the coastal landscape that include community co-designed proposals for how residents and communities would like to adapt.”

FFL has adopted a strategy that should bring all of the key constituencies to the table. It starts with a “holistic adaptation” approach that encourages collaboration among a range of stakeholders, residents and community organizations to work on outreach and engagement strategies conscious of communities in transition as well as economic opportunities. Resilience planning meetings are needed up and down the Mississippi River and across our delta bayous. As this work continues in 2017, the plan will continue to examine the area’s history — how we got here and how we grew here. It will then review the 10-year, 25-year and 50-year coastal outlook in order to discover how we might adapt here, all the while growing local knowledge residents on such complicated issues as mitigation, community needs and existing priorities, proposed strategies and policy changes.

These next months and years are pivotal moments for the present and future of Louisiana. Resilient thinking, regional allies and local action are all necessary as our coastal communities determine how they will adapt to the changing landscape. The work begun in Plaquemines Parish will provide leadership for neighbors facing similar challenges.

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“The second and third cohorts” of LEAD the Coast will run concurrently and represent two sub-regions of southeast Louisiana. Plaquemines, St. Bernard, Orleans, Jefferson and St. Tammany parishes comprise the eastern sub-region, while Terrebonne, Lafourche, Jefferson, St. John the Baptist and St. Charles comprise the western sub-region. The work is scheduled to run through March.

COHORT MEETINGS
Cohort 2
Jan. 14 — Coastal Communities Consulting, Gretna
Jan. 28 — Castine Center, Mandeville
Feb. 11 — Propeller Incubator, New Orleans
March 4 — Docville Farm, Chalmette

Cohort 3
Jan. 21 — North Branch Library, Gray
Feb. 4 — Terrebonne Folklife Culture Center, Houma
Feb. 18 — Terrebonne Waterlife Museum, Houma
March 11 — Terrebonne Waterlife Museum, Houma