- Urgency of Louisiana’s coastal problem. If there was one idea that we heard at each of the ten meetings, it was that people in south Louisiana are living with an ongoing emergency. Citizens made it clear that they were feeling the effects of wetland loss and flooding now. As one person put it, “The salt water is going to come up and knock us out any day. We don’t have time to waste.”
- Wise use of technical tools. Citizens understood that models and other planning tools could be helpful for making tough choices, but people also stressed that the information these tools provide should not be the only input for decision making. Instead, technical information needed to be verified by locals who know how the landscape works. People did not want the human element to be lost, and they did not want the state to make decisions without taking their knowledge into account. Bottom line: the public will not accept a heavy handed use of technical tools without knowledgeable, common sense review.
- Importance of transparency. Our presentation explained how we are using our technical tools to help guide planning. Citizens told us that these tools could be useful, but that we had to explain how we made our decisions. Helping people connect the dots as we move from models, to output, to decisions will be essential.
- Fair geographic representation. Whether citizens lived in the western portion of the state or the east, they were adamant that their community be given equal opportunity to compete for projects and federal dollars. No one wanted their community’s interests to be given less importance up front. Instead, they said that everyone’s projects and needs deserved to compete on a level playing field.
- More certainty about what to expect. Citizens are living with a coast that is changing by the day, and they need to know what is in store so they have time to adjust and prepare. As one person said, “It’s time that the truth be told that not all communities will be protected or able to live in the same place…We know it all can’t be saved…it’s time to tell people the reality of what we are facing and what options we have.”
- Assistance for people affected by transitions. People living on the front lines of coastal change need help as they seek to adjust. In Belle Chasse a citizen told us, “We need to look at fiscal resources and how we deal with changes for people whose livelihoods will change in the future.” Transition plans and financial assistance were among the kinds of help citizens wanted the state to consider providing.
- Mitigation a high profile issue. In Chauvin people mentioned mitigation in the context of wanting to create sustainable benefits. These citizens recommended using mitigation projects in conjunction with other restoration projects and levee projects. In Belle Chasse and Slidell, comments about mitigation centered on whether people should have to pay mitigation fees for improving their own land and resources.
- Importance of funding. In Lake Charles people said that addressing their restoration and flooding issues would take less money than doing so in the eastern part of the coast. In addition, they mentioned that coastal work done in the west would stand up better to sea level rise than would investments made in the eastern portion of the coast. By contrast, the mayor of Lafitte, who attended a meeting in Harvey while Tropical Storm Lee was coming ashore, spoke strongly for allocating funds to his area for structural protection. Doing so was a matter of equity in his view. Citizens in Slidell meanwhile, worried that “each parish is just worried about their own, and we can’t do this piecemeal.” These many views highlight the choices that lie ahead as the state develops the master plan.