LA SAFE launches series of parish-wide public meetings for coastal parish residents
The public meetings, coordinated by LA SAFE and partners including Foundation for Louisiana, help give coastal residents a broad and often historical overview of how the coastline has come to suffer from the kind of erosion that's threatening the economic, cultural and social fabrics of diverse communities. But then as the meetings continue, residents learn how they can become participants and leaders in their own future as they learn to recognize and adapt to challenges by recognizing opportunities.
LA SAFE, or Louisiana’s Strategic Adaptation for Future Environments, is working with coastal-parish residents this week in a series of initial public meetings to help them become better informed and prepared to work with Louisiana’s 50-year, $50 billion coastal master plan an adapt to several coastal challenges.
The public meetings, coordinated by LA SAFE and partners including Foundation for Louisiana, help give coastal residents a broad and often historical overview of how the coastline has come to suffer from the kind of erosion that’s threatening the economic, cultural and social fabrics of diverse communities. But then as the meetings continue, residents learn how they can become participants and leaders in their own future as they learn to recognize and adapt to challenges by recognizing opportunities.
The first meeting was held Monday (March 27) in Port Sulphur for Plaquemines Parish residents. Meetings like one held Tuesday at the Houma-Terrebonne Civic Center, with about 100 residents in attendance, are expected to be the first of three for each parish, starting with broad overviews and then increasingly sharpening the focus. But unlike in some previous efforts, organizers say, the people who both face the greatest threats but also have the greatest wisdom about their homes will have a greater say in their future.
Organizers say the meetings will ultimately produce specific adaption plans for these six parishes at the greatest risk of land loss. The program will invest in one pilot project in each parish, which could help flood proof a business, elevate a home or buy out a homeowner. The financing should be completed by September 2022, the deadline for a $40 million U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grant.
“At the end of day, hopefully we will have something we can all be proud of. We will have a common vision for what this parish can be, what the low-lying communities can be and how we all move forward towards realizing that vision,” said Mathew Sanders, resilience policy and program administrator the state’s Office of Community Development and one of the LA SAFE organizers. The focus, he says, are three key ideas: restoration, structural protection and adaptation.
Liz Williams, FFL’s Coastal Communities Resiliency Program Officer, outlined several of those challenges, noting that the land is sinking while the sea levels are rising, concluding, “We have to think holistically about the whole system … so that we can plan together how Louisiana could adapt to these challenges.”
Residents also heard from Mart J. Black, Director of Coastal Restoration & Preservation for Terrebonne Parish Consolidated Government, as well as Camille Manning-Broome, Senior Vice President of the Center for Planning Excellence.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards announced the launch of this effort in his keynote address at RES/CON, a national conference on community resilience, (March 7, at the Ernest N. Morial New Orleans Convention Center in New Orleans. The planning process will involve public meetings focused on citizen input, as well as extensive outreach to residents of Jefferson, Lafourche, Plaquemines, St. John the Baptist, St. Tammany and Terrebonne parishes. In total, the six parishes account for nearly 21 percent of Louisiana’s population — more than 965,000 residents. (Read more here.)
Here is the complete schedule of the meetings:
March 27 — Plaquemines Parish Meeting at Port Sulphur YMCA, 278 Civic Drive
March 28 — Terrebonne Parish Meeting at Houma-Terrebonne Civic Center 346 Civic Center Blvd., Houma
March 29 — Jefferson Parish Meeting at The Alario Center, 200 Segnette Blvd., Westwego, LA 70094, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
March 30 — St. John the Baptist Meeting at St. John the Baptist Parish Community Center, 2900 US-51, Laplace, LA 70068, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
April 4 — Lafourche Parish Meeting at Mathews Government Complex 4876 Hwy 1, Mathews, LA 70375, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
April 5 — St. Tammany Parish Meeting at Northshore High School Library, 100 Panther Drive, Slidell, LA 70461, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.