Summer 2011 Community Meetings: What Citizens Told Us
Public Meetings and the 2012 Coastal Master Plan
The Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority held 10 regional community meetings throughout the coast between July and September 2011. The meetings gave us an opportunity to speak with citizens, learn what different communities value, and share information about our approach to developing the master plan. As we traveled around the coast, citizens expressed some of the same ideas repeatedly. In addition, each community had its own concerns that reflected the needs of that area’s people and landscape. The summary below provides an overview, as well as a sampling of the unique parish and coastwide perspectives that were expressed.
At the public meetings, we asked people to complete a simple survey that asked the question, “What is most important to you?” Although this was not a scientific survey, it did provide the state with information about general trends and recurring concerns. We compiled the results of the surveys and will consider these preferences along with the comments captured at each meeting as we determine the projects that will be included in the 2012 Coastal Master Plan. We will report back to the public on our choices at the three public hearings to be held in January 2012.
For more information on the recurring themes expressed by Louisiana citizens, CLICK HERE.
As part of each public meeting, we asked citizens to tell us what was important to them. We used a survey to do this. In the first part of the exercise, citizens were asked to provide their local priorities: Which of the five master plan objectives were most important? What level of flood protection did they want to see in their communities? What kinds of coastal benefits (ecosystem services) did they believe were most valuable? In the second half of the exercise, citizens were asked to make the same choices, but this time they were asked to imagine that they had to make these decisions for the coast as a whole. Overall, citizens’ preferences remained largely the same, whether they were considering their own communities’ needs or those of the entire coast.
In addition to the surveys completed at the public meetings, we provided citizens the opportunity to provide their input via an online survey. 805 people completed the survey; 447 in meetings and 359 on line. We tabulated the results by parish and found a range of opinions on all of these choices, even within single parishes.
In this portion of the survey, we asked citizens to tell us what was most important to their community and parish. Parishes did not provide equal numbers of responses, but some trends emerged nevertheless.
- Protection from storm surge flooding (Objective 1) consistently ranked highest, by a small margin, among the five master plan objectives. Objective 2, using natural processes to create a sustainable ecosystem (e.g., river diversions, marsh creation, oyster reefs, etc.), also ranked high in most parishes and was the top ranked priority in Orleans, Cameron, St. Tammany, and Lafayette Parishes. We noted that communities consistently ranked 50-year risk reduction levels above both 100-year risk reduction and greater than 100-year risk reduction levels. This may have reflected the sentiment that “some protection was better than nothing.” Only Orleans and St. Bernard Parishes ranked greater than 100-year risk reduction levels as the most important.
- Although citizens coastwide ranked storm protection as a priority, different regions had different ideas about the form that protection should take. In Abbeville and Larose, citizens spoke of the need for bank stabilization, meaning projects to maintain navigation channels so that they do not become conduits for salt water. As citizens pointed out, well maintained navigation channels can also provide speed bumps to storm surge. In Belle Chasse and Harvey, people spoke more in terms of levees when they spoke about storm protection.
- When all the results were considered together as a group, the top three ecosystem services named on the surveys were: storm surge and wave reduction by wetlands, availability of fresh water, and potential for shrimp—roughly in that order. These three services remained priorities even when each coastal parish was considered individually.
- Nearly every coastal parish gave storm surge attenuation a top ranking.
- The availability of fresh water was a top ranked choice, not only in the western part of the coast, but across the coastal parishes.
- Alligators, waterfowl hunting, and availability of wild crawfish were consistently ranked as the least important ecosystem services.
The same questions were then asked from a coastwide perspective. Many of the trends mentioned under the parish survey were evident in the coastwide results. Objective 1 (reduce storm surge flooding risk) and Objective 2 (use of natural processes) both received top rankings. Reducing flood risk to the 50-year level was ranked highest among coastal services, as well as storm surge and wave reduction by wetlands, availability of fresh water, and potential for shrimp.
To view a printable copy of this summary, the community exercise survey or the coastwide community exercise results, click on the links below: