Gov. John Bel Edwards' office announced a new plan Monday (August 13) to raise awareness of threats to coastal resilience and the state's 50-year master plan to protect the coast.
The new Interagency Coastal Storm Surge-Based Flood Risk and Resilience Awareness Campaign plans to use "Story Maps" to better inform the public about the state's Comprehensive Coastal Master Plan and explain how storm-surge flooding and coastal erosion might impact transportation infrastructure and healthcare and education facilities.
"Sharing and coordinating the Master Plan's knowledge among state agencies and citizens is necessary so that we can truly understand and advocate as a state for its implementation," Gov. John Bel Edwards said in a statement released Monday.
In Edwards' words, the plan aims to "reduce tropical storm surge flood impact, restore our bountiful natural resources, build land to protect our nation's critical energy infrastructure, and secure Louisiana's coast now and for future generations."
Threats to these goals come largely from the impacts of a warming climate, which is increasing storm severity and causing sea levels to rise as global ice caps melt. Warmer temperatures, along with increased globalization and travel, have also allowed for the introduction of invasive species in the area, such as the scale insect decimating the sturdy, native roseau cane that has lined and helped to protect Louisiana's waterfront from previous storm impacts. Activities of the oil and gas industry have also damaged wetlands and the protective services they provide.
The new partnership for awareness includes the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority and the Louisiana state departments of Education, Health and Transportation and Development. These groups worked with the Louisiana State University Economics & Policy Research Group and LSU Graphic Design Student Office to create story maps using data from the 2017 Coastal Master Plan. The story maps illustrate and explain the forces behind Louisiana's vanishing coast and how collaborative action may be able to save what remains and prevent further community interruptions.
"Without the implementation of Master Plan projects, flooding could impact approximately 17 to 21 percent of public schools in coastal Louisiana, and in turn, as many as 67,000 to 88,800 children," La. Superintendent of Education John White said in a press statement released Monday.
The new education story map also outlines past consequences, including that up to 30,000 PreK-12 students missed school in 2005 and 2006 due to facility flooding after Hurricane Katrina.
Hospital and transportation infrastructure are also at risk. The state's master plan, as outlined in the healthcare story map, aims to prevent projected flooding impacts to healthcare facilities by 82 percent and the number of Medicaid providers affected by 65 percent. The transportation story map displays images of tangled fishing boats, submerged highways and collapsed bridges resulting from increasingly severe storms and sea level rise. These damages cost the state millions in reconstruction and interrupt both emergency and everyday services.
The state partnership asserts that these impacts can be minimized if more Louisianans are aware and in support of the coastal master plan.
"Living in a coastal state, we all know the risks of storms and storm surges to not only our natural resources, but also to our state's infrastructure," said DOTD Sec. Shawn Wilson in a statement to the press. "We welcome the opportunity to work with our fellow agencies on this important campaign."