Sinking Louisiana | May 2019 | Public Square

Sinking Louisiana | May 2019 | Public Square


The following program is part of a
national PBS series called Sinking Cities produced in conjunction with
Peril and Promise – a WNET New York initiative telling stories of climate
change around the world. Support for this program is provided by the Foundation
for Excellence in Louisiana Public Broadcasting and from viewers like you. Hello and welcome to Louisiana Public
Square. I’m Beth Courtney, president of LPB, and joining me to examine how
coastal Louisiana is preparing for climate change is one of LPB’s news
anchors, André Moreau. Well Andre, nice to have you with us. It’s good to be here, as always. If you’ve been thinking that climate change is a problem that you won’t have
to face in your lifetime, consider this: a report recently from the
Society of Actuaries says climate change is now the biggest concern for North
American insurers. Issues like rising sea levels have already caused coastal
residents in Texas a 76 million dollar loss in property values. Well 80 percent
of the nation’s coastal land loss is occurring along Louisiana’s Shores.
Through natural and man-made influences, the state is projected to lose another
1,200 square miles of coastline by 2067. Tonight, Louisiana Public Square, in partnership with public radio station WWNO, brings together coastal
scientists, stakeholders, and advocates to explore strategies the state is taking
to protect lives, communities, and a sinking Louisiana. Louisiana’s coastline
is sinking. To determine how much, scientists calculate the rate of
relative sea-level rise — that’s a measure of how far the land is
subsiding or sinking plus the rate the sea level is rising. “And it turns out
that in coastal Louisiana that average rate is about half an inch per year
right now and that means – that rate – that’s about four times higher than the global
average. Torbjörn Törnqvist is a professor with Tulane’s Department of Earth and
Environmental Sciences. He says a 2016 Tulane study found the highest rate of
subsidence in the Cheniere Plain of Cameron Parish. The parish will
ultimately be home to seven liquefied natural gas facilities, while subsidence
occurs naturally, Törnqvist says humans are a factor particularly in
urban areas. “New Orleans expanded tremendously over the past century or so
because we started to drain swamps and when you start doing that the land is
going to start thinking very very rapidly and that is
exactly what has happened here.” In addition the extraction of groundwater
and oil and gas creates localized subsidence. “Anytime you extract fluids
from the subsurface it’s going to lead to sinking at the surface and that’s
very well documented in many many places and that is certainly a contributing
factor here in Louisiana.” Törnqvist says river diversion projects are critical to
replenishing wetlands wherever possible. “We’re not going to rebuild you know
large parts of the coast that’s just not going to happen but the most important
thing is is that we have to address climate change because if we don’t do
that then even the best River diversions on the planets are not gonna are not
going to bail us out.” “I would say the whole plan is an adaptation plan and
that adaptation is in large part in response to climate change.”
Bren Haase is executive director of the Coastal Protection and Restoration
Authority. His department develops and oversees the state’s coastal master plan,
in addition to structural protection projects: the plan includes risk
reduction measures for coastal communities facing sea level rise. The
state recently received 1.2 million dollars to identify homes in southwest
coastal Louisiana that will qualify for voluntary relocation or elevation. “We
have recently just signed an agreement with the Corps of Engineers and the
southwestern part of the state which is really the first our first sort of
dipping our toe in the water of getting into this non structural game so they’re
doing some reconnaissance work there essentially to identify which structures
are at risk and what the solutions may be there and so we’re excited about that.”
This month – Louisiana’s Office of Community Development released a
first-of-its-kind blueprint for managing the population shift anticipated as
coastal risks increase and in January the state purchased land for the
resettlement of the inhabitants of Ile de Jean Charles in Terrebonne Parish – the
nation’s first climate refugees. “I think there’s just a growing
realization that we can’t put a levy around every home can’t put a flood wall
around every home and that we need to look at other alternatives and find a
better way to live with water rather than trying to continuously fight that
water.” Climate change can also create extreme weather events the rain that
caused Louisiana’s 2016 floods exceeded amounts expected to occur once every
1,000 years. “It was enough to really shake us to say wait a minute
something’s not right and we need to come together and we need to we need to
work better and more effectively together than than what’s happening now.”
Monique Boulet is CEO of the Acadiana planning commission the flooding in her
region boules says served as a wake-up call for parishes to think
collaboratively rather than competitively about the Federal Hazard
Mitigation dollars they received. “And so what our parish leaders did was ask the
governor when you disperse that money look at our whole region and give us one
pot of money and we’ll prioritize drainage we – rather than other types of
mitigation and so, he did that.” The 25 million dollars will be used to cover
drainage projects around the three watersheds in the Acadiana region
projects agreed upon by eight parishes. “We were dealing with elected officials
from those three watersheds and so we were able to have conversations about
you know we have this problem here yeah you do you need to fix it but you need
to think about you know downstream, we need to look downstream and upstream.” The
National Climate Assessment highlighted the Acadiana Planning Commission’s
regional flood control project in its 2018 report Louisiana was promised 1.2
billion dollars from the feds to fund a statewide watershed initiative but 15
months later the state still hasn’t received a single dollar. When it comes
to addressing floodwaters or rising seas Boulet says collaboration is key. “We
often say water knows no political boundaries it flows where it wants to
float. Our science and decision-making around that water needs to cross those
political boundaries just as it crosses those political boundaries.”
Helping us now to explore a seeking Louisiana is our studio audience it
includes representative from Cameron Parish. Several coastal NGOs, the state’s
folk life program and Louisiana’s Office of Community Development we welcome
everyone we’ve also got high school students from the Louisiana Legislative
Youth Advisory Council. Now last year a statewide poll on the role of climate
change and Louisiana is disappearing coast it was conducted for the
Times-Picayune and among its findings asked if climate change is responsible
for Louisiana’s coastal erosion. Forty- -eight percent say it is responsible.
Thirty-nine percent say it is not. Thirteen percent do not believe in
climate change. While only slightly more than half of the respondents were aware
that Louisiana had a coastal master plan of this group eighty four percent were
very or somewhat confident that the plan would succeed only 16 percent were not
confident at all. To the question who should pay to restore Louisiana’s
wetlands seventy two percent believe the government and industry should share the
cost and eighteen percent believe that only the oil and gas industry should pay,
nine percent say just the government should pay. And when asked if they’ll
experience the effects of coastal land loss in their lifetime fifty-one percent
say no, forty nine percent say yes. So let’s start with our own survey now and
our own studio audience tell me from your perspective and experience what are
your concerns about climate change and Louisiana’s coast and I’m going to begin
with Claire. Claire tell me who you represent and where you’re from and
answer that question if you would. “I represent the Cameron Parish Port
Harbor in Terminal District. I’m also a board member of the coalition to restore
coastal Louisiana. I was born and raised in Cameron parish and I lived there now
I live in the village of Cameron so for me that that’s quite astonishing that
there’s a 51 percentage point of folks surveyed that say it’s not going to
impact them it impacts me every day and not just when I’m on the coast. We’ve got
to begin planning for what our inevitable circumstances in our state.”
Cameron Parish of course is an area that people remember from Hurricane
Audrey and other hurricanes a low-lying area very susceptible to any kind of
rising water but also it’s an area where this is huge boom and LNG’s and other
production facilities and the Lake Charles Calgary parish so tell us how do
you prepare for all of this growth that’s going on there. “Well in terms of
the the industrial projects that are being built and right now there are 35
billion that have already been constructed in Cameron Parish alone an
additional forty billion on the horizon in Cameron Parish alone more than a
hundred billion in Calcasieu and Cameron Parish together. These projects are
working to mitigate wetlands, they’re building marshland. So, a collaborative
effort is certainly what we’re looking forward to con- to seeing more of in
Cameron Parish and Southwest Louisiana in general. Everyone working together to
save the coast.” Okay thanks Claire we appreciate it.
Lemme go to Travis now, your thoughts about climate change in Louisiana and
rising sea level on the coast. “There’s many issues going on the same time. We’re
sinking naturally. The seas are rising because of climate change.
Industry has played a part in in all of this and then of course man-made things
like levees has played a part and so it’s just a really difficult thing to
start parsing out when we’re looking for solutions I think and so for me as a
reporter talking to people I think it’s it can be a tough issue to go about
solving. Because there’s so many different threads that are wound
together so tightly and so knowing where to sort of focus your attention can be
really tough and confusing. And let me go to Matt now, who’s here on the front row
and Matt tell me who you represent who you’re with your thoughts on this
question. “Sure, I’m the resilience policy and program administrator with the
State’s office of community development. Over the past several years I’ve had the
privilege to lead two of the projects that you alluded to in your segment: The
Resettlement of Village Dean Charles and the LA safe program that released its
findings this past week. I think we need to plan for a smaller footprint in
Louisiana and I think to evidence that I mean we can only look at satellite
imagery from the past and understand that we’re currently living
in a smaller footprint now than we did then and if we extrapolate that out at
other 50 years and beyond we have to come to the reality and the
understanding that this is going to continually be a problem. And so, I think
we need to recognize it as the the existential threat to the viability of
our economy, our way of life, that it really is and act accordingly.” Alright
thank you very much I’ll go to Runra, right here, our youth Advisory Council.
Where are you from though and your thoughts on this topic.
“I’m from New Orleans, I’m a member of the Louisiana Legislative Youth Advisory
Council. As a kid it’s very scary to learn that 50% of the people don’t care
or believe that this is actually happening
and I like to use my time to educate and advocate to make sure that my generation
and future generations have a future.” Alright, really thanks so much for that. I
know maybe you’ve got a lot of thoughts so many who you represent and also
respond to that questioning. “I’m the state folklorist. I manage the state folk
life program and the division of the arts. My concern is with all this
population movement that’s going to be happening you know what’s going to be
happening to the traditional cultures across the state, it’s what is so special
about Louisiana. It’s part of what is so special and so in all of this you know
I’m looking at the cultures.” And a culture being lost perhaps shifting over
time well? “Well, all culture changes yeah it’s not static. But with mass in depending on
how quickly and how how much movement how soon it’ll be a lot of cultural
disruption not just economic and you know but there’ll be cultural
disruption too. So I’m wondering what can be done to help that process.” Okay, thank
you so much for that let me go to Bob, Bob tell me who you’re representing here
tonight and your your response to that question. “Well I’m a professional
hydrologist and I work with a lot of my colleagues some of whom are gonna be
working with the state on some of its new watershed initiative activities with
modeling. Going back to your initial segment when you talked about the cost
of insurance in the state one of my interest is for our state to really move
rapidly to the point where we can give every homeowner and every businessman
the insurance information that they need to know about what is the flood risk and
the future flood risk in our state. So individually people can start seeing the
kind of decisions they personally need to make on: where they live, where they
want to buy a house, how much their house is really worth and as a result of that
inform their politicians and policy makers the kind of mitigation act
actions that they really think will be cost effective. You know, really having
that cost information personally will make a big difference in being able to
collectively make some good decisions. Do you find that cost information is
changing though in different areas, different situations? “We’re starting to
get warned I have friends who live in various parts of the country who you
know or they’re starting to see parts of America like in Miami and other is where
the concern that property values are really going to be changing a lot of its
speculation. But what we have in this state is an initiative on the part of
Pat Forbes who we’re going to meet in a few minutes and others, to give us tools
to get much better estimate so we’re not guessing at what the future flood
insurance rates are going to be in the state we can really confidently know. And
those neighborhoods where it’s not going to have as high risk of flooding maybe
that’s the place where we ought to look be thinking about living.” Yeah okay Bob
thank you very much. Chris – let me ask you your thoughts and who
you’re here with “I’m a geologist. I’m with the New
Orleans Geological Society and I was trying to look at the optimistic side of
things. I think that in Louisiana, because we are dealing with the combined effects
of subsidence and sea-level rise we’re gonna see these effects before anybody
else. And so, we’re learning and we’re really learning for the rest of the
world in and we are at the forefront and I think
CPRA is – has got – they’re hiring the best scientists they’re taking they’re taking
it head-on they’re addressing it with science. My
input is that subsidence is fundamentally a geological phenomenon
and the more we can understand about geology the more we can understand the
processes involved with.” Okay Chris, thank you for that.
Celia, tell me where you’re from and who you’re representing. “Oh of course, I’m
from the Legislative Youth Advisory Council and I’m a student I think for me
one of the the biggest things on this issue is the sociological implications
of coastal erosion. I’ve actually spent the past year working on a research
project where I’ve set out to determine just how cultures and communities are
being implicated by coastal erosion and so I think that going forward it’s
imperative that we acknowledge that our culture’s and our communities are
dependent and reliant upon the formation and the geography that they’re
surrounded by. And – if we – if they’re not surrounded by that in the same capacity
a lot of their traditions are at risk of being lost and that’s something that is
really tragic for the future of not only the state of Louisiana but our local or
global community. I mean for our state especially it’s a big part of our
tourist -industry- industry, is our unique culture and heritage. And also these
communities have taken centuries to form and development so it would be really
have a lot of negative consequences for our entire world to see them disappear.
Because we can’t maintain, you know those those resources and in that kind of
environment. So I think that going forward it’s just really important that
we whether it’s through oral history reports or through efforts to keep these
communities together that we do something to try to protect and preserve
a lot of these cultures and traditions and communities.” Okay so yeah thanks for
that. Kendall, your thoughts and response and also who you represent. “Yes, my name
is Kendall Dix. I’m an organizer with Healthy Gulf. And I would say that
probably my main concern with all of this is that like with everything in
Louisiana. The effects of climate change are going to be born so much by its poor
black and Native residents and I worry that we haven’t really learned our
lessons for where a lot of these problems are coming from. And -one of – one
of the issues going forward is that the state’s going to have a lot of trouble
for this and one of the reasons is that through the industrial tax exemption
program they’ve given away massive amounts of tax breaks to the companies
who have helped make this problem worse. Cameron Parish is a perfect example of a
parish that’s losing out on billions billions of dollars statewide and as
long as we continue to prioritize oil and gas above restoring our coasts I
don’t see a lot of hope for the problem getting any better.” Okay Kendall, thank
you for that. That is all the time we have for this portion of our show.
When we return though, we’re going to be joined by a panel of experts to discuss:
Sinking Louisiana. Welcome back everyone, to Louisiana
Public Square. Tonight, we are looking at climate change and Louisiana’s sinking
Coast. Joining us now, our panel of experts: Virginia Burkett is the chief
scientist for land resources at the US Geological Survey. She is the acting
chair of the U.S. Global Change Research program. Bren Haase is Executive Director
of the Coastal Protection Restoration Authority – CPRA. Which develops and
oversees the state’s coastal master plan. Tegan Wendland is the lead coastal
reporter for public radio station WWNO, that’s based in New Orleans. Wendland has
filed numerous coastal land loss stories for state and national broadcasts. And
Pat Forbes is Executive Director of Louisiana’s Office of Community
Development, in this role he oversees the Block Grant programs in areas including
housing economic development infrastructure and resiliency planning.
Now before we go to our audience questions I’d like to ask each of you
from your perspective to give a letter grade of how well-prepared Louisiana is
to address climate change and let me begin on the far end right there with
you. “Okay, thank you I don’t know about a
letter grade, but I know of which – it would be would be very high! And that’s based upon
early career here with the Louisiana Geological Survey serving on the master
plan sent science and engineering board for the first state master plan and then
looking at that solid science basis that the state has used for developing its
strategies for protecting coastal habitats and coastal people. And most
recently the report the Louisiana safe report by the Office of Community
Development, now we’re looking at the human dimensions and so that science
that that analytical approach is evidence there too so I’d say the state
was in a very good position to deal with the future.”
All right, Virginia Burkett thank you very much for that. Bren Haase, your
letter grade if you can give one. “Well, I would agree that it would be high and I
would say that if you graded on the curve I would I would say it would be an
A.” Okay. “That’s not to say there’s not room for improvement, obviously. There’s –
there’s – lots that we can be doing to to improve our readiness and
and preparedness for for changes along our coast. But, I don’t know of any other
state that has put the amount of technical expertise science and
engineering effort behind being ready for those kind of changes.” Alright,
thank you. Teagan Wendland? “Well I’m a reporter, so I’m not really supposed to
have opinions, but if you were to grade on a curve, you know, and compare the
state to how other coastal states are preparing for the sea-level rise that we
know is to come, I guess I would put us around to see a C+ or a B. I’d rank us
fairly high because we do have this coastal master plan and LA SAFE’s plan, which we’ll hear more about soon. But if sea level rises if sea levels can
continue to rise at the rate that scientists predict, you know we’re not
going to be able to stop land loss completely, and the CPRA has acknowledged
that. All right thank you very much for that Tegan. And Pat Forbes?
I think it’s difficult for anybody to know how well prepared they are for
something that we don’t know exactly what it looks like, but I have to go
along with Brennan’s saying that, in terms of preparation for what may come,
we’re better placed than anybody else. We’re thinking about things that other
people are not thinking about. We’re acting on things that people other
people are only thinking about with the Coastal Master Plan from the CPRA
looking at structural physical challenges, and with the LA SAFE program
out now looking sort of at the people side of that, and with our watershed
initiative that we’re getting kicked off. We really are ahead of it’s essentially
everyone else in the nation in terms of thinking through this and what is it
going to look like, even though I mean you know none of us can know exactly
what it looks like, but we we can’t afford not to prepare. Okay, thank you
very much. All right panelists, get ready for some questions. Tthere’ll be a lot of
discourse and questions back and forth coming your way. Let’s begin with Garvin. Tell me who you represent. You’re in our audience and you have a question for the
panelists. I represent the Coalition to Restore
Coastal Louisiana as a board member and my question to you guys is what can
community groups and nonprofits do to make your job easier. Pat, do you want to
take that. Yeah I’d love to. I think that whatever we do it it’s going to involve
people and so community groups and nonprofits are how it’s the best way
that we reach people. If you look at our LA SAFE process that we used, it was an
engagement with citizens and residents through nonprofits and local
organizations because that’s — you got to meet people where they are. And until we
can have everybody educated about where we are — the numbers that I saw earlier
we’re stunning about how many people think sea level changes can affect them
in their lifetime — but until we can reach them, educate, and get everybody
understanding where we are and what we can do about it, then it’s going to be a harder row to hoe. And I think that one of the
primary mechanisms we can use is nonprofits. Let’s go to another question –
and John in our studio audience, what’s your question? Tell me where you’re from
also. Well I’m a coastal scientist I work for the Lake Pontchartrain Basin
Foundation, direct our coastal program. I was thinking about the questions you
asked to panel about grading and I agree with kind of the assessment that I think
Louisiana’s cut ahead of a class, but like students, we haven’t graduated yet,
so I think it’s important to to ask you know how well are we learning. And so one
of those things that I think requires a lot more work and science is is the
question of subsidence, so the question I had is but what can we do to improve our
understanding of subsidence and estimates in the future because it is so
important to understanding the relative sea level rise and this this collective
risk from the rising seas and our coast sinking. Several people might have
answers to this. Virginia Burkett from the USGS, you want to try this first?
Well the variability in subsidence from
as you know John from one part of the coast to the other or even within
subunits of a basin is just very high, and trying to get a handle on the rate
of subsidence that you then add the other processes like sea level rise on
top of. Unless you have that basic geologic understanding — and the New
Orleans Geological Society and the state LGS are collaborating on some methods to
integrate industry data with with data from USGS and others. So anything that
can be done I think to enhance our understanding of local processes, and
local rates of subsidence, and the drivers of that, because they’re episodic.
Just like rainfall is and even sea level rise in the big picture, so enhancing our
understanding of subsidence mechanisms trends and projections into the future, I
think is really important. Bren Haase from CPRA? Sure I’d love to add to that.
Absolutely, geology drives everything that’s occurring across coastal
Louisiana from a landscape perspective. And I would say it’s CPRA, we have we
have a series of monitoring stations — almost 400 stations across the coast —
that are monitoring relative subsidence rates. We also have some targeted
research efforts if you will to investigate the way faults are affecting
subsided. For example that was mentioned I know earlier, and a subsided
superstation for example that’s being installed in in Plaquemines Parish, so
there is a lot of work. We do recognize that that’s an area that we need to
improve on, and I mentioned that in my sort of grade assessment as well, that
there’s there’s always room for improvement. And we’ve invested quite a
lot actually over the last several years in trying to get a better understanding
of what those rates are, because they are so spatially different. Back to our
studio audience and Emily, you’re in our audience. You’ve got a question and tell
us who you are where you’re from also. Emily Buxton with the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana. I’m their policy director. My question was about
the general public. So I think the general public in Louisiana understands more
probably than other states in terms of what’s happening here environmentally. Is
there anything that you think the general public doesn’t understand when
you do your work that you want to relay to them? Tegan, do you want to take that
first since you cover this? I’m sure there might be a several people
that can respond to that though. Something that the general public
doesn’t understand… I mean it’s this is all very nuanced science we’re talking
about, right? And I think Travis got at this a little bit in his introduction,
but you know the interplay between subsidence and rising sea levels. I think
that sometimes people attribute rising seas to being one of the greatest
threats, and that hasn’t historically been the number one threat, but it will
in the future, And so I think you know explaining some of that nuance is
important. Pat Forbes? I think there are lots of things. One thing I would point
to immediately is people probably don’t understand the the variance in impacts
on people living in the coast and living in more dangerous areas depending on
their financial wherewithal and their ability to get away from risk and not
live where in high-risk areas. I think that it is really not well understood by
most folks at this point and it’s super important point. Okay, we’re gonna go back
for a moment to our studio audience and Tori. Tell me who you’re with and what
your question is for our experts. Hi, am Tori Jackson. I am Communications Director for the
Louisiana Youth Advisory Council. I think as a citizen of Louisiana, things that
come into play are financial, and financial comings and where they come
from. So my question is do you think it’s more effective to charge the oil and
energy industry with their effects to coastal erosion or do you think that
that money should be targeted from the citizens who contribute to the sea
rising sea levels through climate change? Bren, would you like to take that first? Sure,
well I mean I think it’s much like our plan. It’s multifaceted and there’s an
all-hands-on-deck approach. I think that I think that how we pay for this this
issue is an all-hands-on-deck situation as well. I don’t think we can afford
to to turn down any source of funding to try to accomplish our goals, so I think
it’s it’s all of the above really. Anyone else want to respond? Virginia? I would add it’s not just one sector of the economy that is causing the problem. And if you’re going to attack global, you know be the whole global community that
would be have to pay for the problem in Louisiana. And it’s a combination of very
unique drivers of change, including the development of cities the the dredging
of coastal waterways. It’s not just one driver, and it’s not just you know you
can’t just go to the old gas industry and expect for them to pay for something
that in my view as a Louisiana citizen that is it’s much more complex than that. Okay. But she is getting at an interesting point I think the majority
of the funding for the coastal master plan is coming from the oil and gas
industry in some form — whether it’s from the BP settlement or from GOMESA — the
sale of offshore leases. And then there are these coastal parish lawsuits
against the oil and gas companies that could provide not probably a very
substantial amount of money but you know they’re symbolic in a sense and you know
are there other ways that we could look to the oil and gas industry to, you know,
make right for the canals that they’ve carved in the marshes over time that
have contributed by some accounts you know to up to 70% of the land loss. Okay thank you very much for that. Let me go back to our audience now. And Claire
from Cameron Parish, a huge stakeholder in this of course. What’s your question? So I’m curious to know now that shoreline protection is approved project
type and the coastal master plan, and we have we see continued wetlands
mitigation in Cameron Parish with industrial project growth, and we do not
have the sediment generator that the eastern side of the state has in the
Mississippi River, do you guys see a time when there will be wetlands mitigation
approved project types like shoreline protection and oyster reef creation
that’s something apart from the the creation of marshes? Brent? Well, so
mitigation is specific to regulation and CPRA doesn’t regulate wetland impacts, but I will say that absolutely you’re right, in terms of a viable restoration
strategy that, yes shoreline protection is something that we’ve considered. We’re
participating in as we speak, as you well know in Cameron Parish. Again I’ll go
back maybe to my earlier comments that there’s no one single silver bullet,
right? We’re definitely in an all-hands-on-deck kind of a situation. We
can’t afford to leave any of these sort of restoration techniques — whether it’s shoreline protection, living shorelines, marsh creation, and hydrologic
restoration — you name it — off the table. We’ve seen them all work in our parish. Yeah. I just hope that people
understand that it’s absolutely multifaceted. It’s not one type of — for
example if we continue to, which I’m so grateful for, build marsh and Cameron
Parish, but there’s not the protective measures offshore by way of shoreline
protection or living reefs, living shorelines, then we’re building marshland
that’s going to continuously be impacted by wave action and storm surge and and
then what are we left with? I want to live there. I want my children to live
there. Yeah, yeah. John? I think the concept that Bren and they were alluding to is what we call multiple lines of defense. And basically it’s using these multiple tools — you know it’s building levees, it’s
building up our coast, our barrier islands — it’s about non structural solutions that
OCD works on so, it is as Bren said kind of a multi-faceted thing. I mean there is
no silver bullet. We’re gonna have to use as Bren said, all the tools we have.
One thing also… You got a question? One thing I want to respond to, this is
Kendall from Healthy Gulf, again. I wanted to respond to the comment that CPRA
doesn’t mitigate or I mean doesn’t regulate wetlands impacts. But CPRA
recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Plaquemines
liquids terminal. We already have a study showing that a project like this at the
mouth of the Mid Barataria sediment diversions — the signature 1.4 billion
dollar land building project of the state — the effectiveness would be reduced
by 17%. But CPRA signed that memo saying that
we would that they at least initially are able to go ahead with that project
and I’m just curious why we would put the signature land building project at
risk for an oil export terminal? Well, absolutely we would not want to put that
signature project at risk. I think it’s important to note that the two projects
your reference are different projects. Tthey’re not the same; their features are
different. And the path that we’re taking forward now is one to get to a point
where we can assess what the impacts of the current proposed project might
have on that diversion. And so we need to see what those impacts might be, you know, and if they are unreasonable or to a point where we think they really are
detrimental to that project, then we’re gonna have to have further discussion
about about that project. What do you like an unacceptable level would be of
impact? We don’t know yet. We don’t know, yet, we need to get through the
analysis and see what you know see what things look like. I will say that you’re
right. We did sign a Memorandum of Understanding related to that, but
it would require both a permit and a memorandum of agreement for that
facility to operate and and move forward into the future. And so that’s really the
kind of the key instrument that would be the sort of go or no-go point. Here on
our panel, Pat Forbes, you’ve got an LA SAFE report in your hand you’ve
got it as a matter of fact and how does the role of insurance play into this
and in your findings? Well, the role of insurance is huge in the life of
Louisiana. We, some fifty one percent of our state, is in a special flood hazard
area. The geography of our state is in a special flood hazard area, so the cost of
insurance is going to determine where people live, it’s going to determine what
people are in vulnerable positions whenever we do have storms and disasters,
and it’s critical to how we address the issue. Because if we continue to have
people live in places that we know are dangerous and we don’t discourage that
and we don’t make it possible, we don’t facilitate people’s ability to live in
safer places, then we’re setting ourselves up for having our most
vulnerable populations living in our most dangerous places. Insurance is a way
to manage that, if it’s done well. It’s also a way to exacerbate it if it’s not
done well. If the term “climate change refugees” is one that has not really been
heard of that much before, but it’s becoming very familiar to you.
It is a term that we don’t like. The term was applied to the residents of
ville de Jean Charles. It’s a island community of Native Americans mostly who lived just off the coast and are not going to be protected by a levee. And we
are helping them move to an entirely new community. It’s organized. They’re brave
people. They don’t want to leave where they are, but they see that they have to. And they’re planning that departure and that new future for themselves
For those reasons we don’t like to call them refugees, we think of them
as pioneers who are some of the first people who are going to completely
resettle their entire community from one place to another because of the risks we
that they face living in the coast. And so we’re going to learn a lot from them
and their experiences as we go through this process of getting them moved. So with just with your mission right now, I want to go back to our audience. And
to Meta who is dealing with the future of folk life and how things could change. What is your question for our panel? Well I’m concerned about what happens to Louisiana’s traditional cultures with all the population movements and shifts
that are going to happen. It’s going to be a good deal of cultural disruption. And well that’s the history of humanity, what can we do about it now? And I’m
wondering how cultural issues are being considered in planning. Sure if I might
go again, I’m gonna go back to the isle de Jean-Charles example. If you read our
application and the objectives of our project, it will be a failure if all
we did was get 40 families moved from an unsafe place to a safe place. The whole
project is built around not only trying to preserve the culture of that
community because it’s so rich and so long, but actually trying to enhance it —
trying to build the new community in such a way that elders on Charles starts
to reconstitute itself and enhance its cultural cohesiveness if you will. Because yeah, we…the coast of Louisiana is the major driver in its
culture. And if we’re losing the coast, how do we not lose that culture? And we hope that we’re going to learn some things about that in the
resettlement of Isle de Jean-Charles, but we there will be a lot more for us
to learn to try to prevent that loss that dramatic loss of culture from our
coastal communities. Let me ask you very quickly… yeah, Bren. go ahead. I’d like
to add on to that if if I may and this is an immensely complicated question and
problem right and so I don’t mean to oversimplify, but I, but I’d like to sort
of reiterate one of the things that Pat said which is the culture in Louisiana
is so closely tied to its coast that the more the – the more of the coast
that we can save the better off we’ll be from a preserving of our cultural
heritage standpoint. And again I know that’s very much an oversimplification
but that’s a big deal. I think the second thing I would add is
that the better we are at predicting what we think the future of our coast is
going to look like. The better prepared we are to plan well and I know that
doesn’t directly answer your question. ‘What is planned well mean?’ Well, you have
to have an idea of what the future is going to hold to be able to make good
plans. So that we can adjust the way we live work and play along our coast in a
deliberate manner instead of those changes inflicting there will
essentially on us and our cultures. What I’m concerned about: which traditions are retained in the movement
and I think the most important thing is that people do it in an intentional
thoughtful way and I’m talking about the communities not the administrators and
give them the opportunity to really say this is important to me what can I do to
make sure this you know survives. Just add just a piece most almost every time
anybody has ever moved a community they have just given those people money and
let them go find a safer place which completely scatters that culture and you
lose that to the wind essentially which is why we’re doing this resettlement of
Isle De Jean-Charles in such a different fashion. And again one of our
objectives is to seek how well we can do in maintaining that culture when
geographically they move to a whole new place.
The challenge is gonna be when they’re changing ecosystems. Yes. Absolutely.
Absolutely. Let me go back to our audiences for just a moment, Chris did you have a question? Yes, well I actually like would like to address the
issue about the oil and gas industry because I work in the only gas industry
I think it’s important to say and I’d like to say that by recognizing CPRA
has really been at the forefront of advancing science. I said that into the
beginning and that was really evident. Well, I would encourage anybody to
watch a CPRA board meeting they’re available online. I got to watch the
March meeting CPRA has an expert in subsidence on staff Dr. Krista Jankowski
she studied under Dr. Tørnquist at Tulane and she gave a presentation to
the board on subsidence. And in that she referenced two ongoing research projects.
One at Tulane/UNO and one at UL. Both of those projects are using oil and
gas industry data to study the relationship between geology and
subsidence and she in fact referred to it as a partnership with those universities.
So that to me, I think a missing component that we’re not thinking about
is how can we work collaboratively – Claire alluded to that at the
infrastructure level – but at the science level: how can we work collaboratively to
address the issue? Is that your question? My question. And who would
like to I would like to take it? I mean – well, I think you both can chime in.
I think in some ways you answered your question in your opening. I guess to the
question you know clearly anywhere we can any source of information that we
can get to help us better understand what’s going on along our coast we’re
open to that we want to see that. And you’re right there are efforts underway
that are utilizing oil and gas industry information and data to help us better
understand what’s happening below our our soil surface essentially. And I
mentioned a few of those earlier, I won’t go back through those. But – they’re – you
know a dozen or so efforts that that just CPRA are undertaking at the moment
that are that are doing just that. Dr. Burkett, let me ask you this – with the
USGS – which parts of the state are most at risk for sea-level rise is there one
area that is more at-risk? Whether it be Cameron Parish worse than Grand Isle or
Plaquemines Parish which would be at the worst level at the moment well the ones
that are having the greatest rates of subsidence and don’t have any protection
any of these lines of defense that John was talking about earlier. Those are the
ones that are probably the most vulnerable. But, those areas are?
Well, there’s Cheniere Plain, the Mississippi Delta, Southeast Louisiana
primarily. Just because of the geologic only 7500 years old and as that Delta
switched back and forth the Mississippi River switched back and forth across the
coast abandoning one area that area just naturally subsides D waters compacts.
Okay so.. But one thing that we haven’t mentioned about the drivers of
change and that is the intensity of storms. And sea level rise is not the
only driver at play here okay? And the coastal land loss that is being
experienced and the loss of our culture overnight well my parents lost their
home. They didn’t – we weren’t planning for that it just happened. They moved further
north and dispersal…diaspora they call it.
So the storms drive that and so the planning that the state is putting
together now to try to preserve cultures and have this more thoughtful
approach to migration and movement of people – is – makes a lot of sense.
Because these episodes of dramatic land loss 216 miles overnight square miles
lost during Hurricane Katrina. And then Rita right after that. You know those
storms are growing more intense since 1980: the landfalling hurricanes
from the Atlantic Basin have increased in virtually all measures of intensity
in size and rainfall surge so that’s something that has to be added to or
needs to be added to the equation and the increasing intensity of rainfall
events is another. As you increase the temperature of the atmosphere it holds
more water. And these are all things we’re experiencing. We are. Yeah so, those are things that need to be factored into the stormwater management
plan that the Office of Community Development has put together it’s not
just sea level rise it’s all of these other drivers of change that are working
collectively to change our coasts. Teagan, let me ask you some of the stories
that you’ve been covering as far back as you’ve been covering them. What are you
finding from people as they are forced to make change in their lives and how
are they responding? Well up until now we’ve really seen an unmanaged retreat.
So, like Virginia said, after each storm folks move away. And you know sometimes they follow each other and you know many people from St. Bernard Parish
moved to the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain after Hurricane Katrina.
Sometimes they are able to retain that identity to an extent there’s a seafood
restaurant there where they all gather now. But it has been unmanaged and so
that means that the folks who have been left are in large part folks who haven’t
been able to afford to move on their own. And so it’s exciting to see this plan
being put forth by LA Safe. It’s sort of unprecedented, but I think in order to
affect actual change there really needs to be funding attached to it.
All right Teagen, thank you very much. Now, Matt, let me go to you and get your question, if you will.
Sure. What advice would you give today to our local elected
officials and community leaders as they contemplate the future of the people in
places they represent? That oh well –
Bren? I’ll be… Anyone speak up. You know I would say that it
gets back to some of my previous answers I guess. But to have a good understanding
of what the expected risks are to their communities into the future.
Because that’s the basis for how you you plan today for what’s going to happen
obviously tomorrow. And so without that understanding of what we think the
future may hold for community X community Y. It’s sort of the
unmanaged approach that Teagan referred to earlier. I think people on
the coast have a lot of meeting fatigue you know there’s rounds of meetings with
every coastal master plan which is good for Public Engagement. There were many
rounds of meetings with LA Safe, I think that people on the coast are hungry for
bullet points, for information, from their policymakers, about what action they can
take now. Let me add to the point that I was gonna make is that I think my advice
would: be make sure your citizens your residents are as well-informed as you
are – about what the risks are and what our paths are potential paths forward are.
What is the community rating system assessment and how does that
factor in with insurance rates if it does? I’m not an expert in in CRA, but it
essentially provides reductions community-wide reductions in flood
insurance costs depending on actions and activities and educational activities by
that local government. To reduce flood risk. It can be things like educational
tools it can be things that reduce physical risk, but anything that reduces
risk overall flood risk for the community can result in a commensurate
reduction in their overall premiums for flood insurance. Okay thank you very much
for that. Let’s go back to our audience and Ralina, one of our students, what is
your question for the panel? Hi my name Ralina Ramrakhiani, I’m a member of the
Louisiana Legislative Youth Advisory Council. My question is – available for
everyone to answer – What do you want to see the new generation of lawmakers
implement to ameliorate the sinking of Louisiana? Alright, who wants to test on
that one first? Best question yet. I think everybody could answer that – so uh Brynn, you wanna give it a shot first? Why not? That’s a really good question and one
that stuff too tough to answer I think. I think that, we’re moving in this direction now but but I think that an understanding of our
lawmakers that these are decisions that while they involve people and very
intimately involved people. These are really you know human dimension type
questions. That to the extent that we can, we’ve got to remove politics from the
kind of decisions. That we need to make into the future and that the science, the
engineering and so forth really has to drive the decisions that we make moving
forward. Really, I would just second that. As we work through LA Safe,
as we move to the the watershed initiative. The key to that whole thing
is focusing on science engineering the data that we have available to make
smart decisions together. So that everybody can get optimal benefit from
from the actions that we’re able to take that we can afford to take. And if I
may clarify, I said science and engineering I want to be clear that that
includes Social Sciences. So again these decisions absolutely out there at their
most basic involve people. They are people decisions and so I want to make sure I’m
clear in that statement. Brenn, thank you. I’ve got a quick question the status of
the watershed initiative and the funding we saw the mission of that in our
original story at the beginning of our program what’s the status of that? We are
still awaiting guidance HUD. It comes in the form of a Federal
Register notice and they have not produced that. We are eagerly awaiting it
the appropriation was written I believe in February of 2018. And we’ve
never waited for guidance from HUD for this long, but until we get that guidance
we can’t really – we have to – write an action plan to tell them how
we’re gonna spend the money. We can’t do that till we see the rules. So we’re eagerly awaiting those rules. Okay, now Pat thank you very much. It’s a
pretty much time for us to wrap up a bit. And so I’m going to ask for a closing
comment – a brief run from each of you – beginning with Miss Burkett. Okay, I would
just remind us all that there are multiple drivers of change that are
working to affect Louisiana coast and so ‘everything being on the table’ as Brenn
said, you know. All the different strategies for restoring the coast and
protecting the people and your question I loved you know what what is in my mind
the most important thing is for people to understand to educate themselves to
read take the time to delve into understanding and reading the literature
that will give you a basis for decision making.
Virginia Burkett with USGS. Brenn Hasse with CPRA. I would I would just say that you
know I think as it relates to how we understand those multiple drivers of
what’s happening along our coast is key. And we need to continue to improve our
understanding of those things and I think the system that we have set up in
this community, essentially of all of us sitting here today, is poised to do that.
You know I do want people to know that we’ve got a plan
I think we can be successful in that plan and it’s going to take all of us
pulling in the same direction to accomplish our goals but nothing worth
doing is is very easy. Okay, and Tegan Wendland from WWNO. I think
it’s exciting to see that the state is talking about the human dimensions of
land loss you know 10 or 20 years ago we weren’t necessarily even recognizing you
the extent of this issue and it’s taken us a while to get to this point a few
years ago it was a very uncomfortable topic to raise with anyone who lives on
the coast this idea of relocation and now the state is acknowledging the
inevitability that some folks will have to move. And you know that we need to
find some ways to move away from this sort of piecemeal approach to funding.
And Lobby the federal government to create some sort of funding program to
alleviate some of these pressures. And Pat Forbes, Office Community Development,
briefly. I would say that every challenge we face is best met when we’re all
pulling in the same direction and this challenge is no different it’s bigger.
Which means it requires even more so that we all have common set of facts
that we understand and an approach to addressing those facts and that we pull
together to do the things we’ve got to do to to not only survive it but thrive
coming out of it. Alright, thank you for that and we have now run out of time for
our question and answer segment. So we’d like to thank our panelists: Dr. Burkett,
Mr. Haas, Miss Wendland and Mr. Forbes for their insight on this month’s topic. When
we come back we’ll have a few closing comments. That is all the time we have for this
edition of Louisiana Public Square. We encourage you to visit the series
website at the address on your screen, and while you’re there you can view
additional coastal resources and you can join in the conversation about tonight’s
show we would love to hear from you. You can also see how other major
metropolitan areas are dealing with climate change on the PBS series: “Sinking
Cities.” LPB will air the series every Sunday in June at 11 a.m. You can join
Louisiana public square next month for a recap of the session on the legislative
rap of 2019 thanks everyone for watching and good night. Major funding for “Sinking Cities: Peril
& Promise” was provided by Dr. P Roy Vagelos and Diana Vagelos with
additional funding from Sue and Edgar Rachenheim, the third and the Mark Hasse
Foundation. Additional funding for Peril and Promise is provided by Lise
Strickler and Mark Gallogly. “Sinking Cities” was also supported by the Arthur
Vining Davis Foundations and viewers like you.

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4 thoughts on “Sinking Louisiana | May 2019 | Public Square”

  • stop sinning stop sinking. says me Jesus. talking to. Security and exchange commission. logs could help stop. land loss. logs could build land stop wasting wasting trees with paper jungle

  • How is “climate change” (the earth’s climate is and always has been in flux) responsible for Louisiana sinking, when they have PLAINLY stated the subsidence is due to the removal of natural gas, salt and the filling-in of swamp land?