FAQs: Technical Issues
1. How is the state using science to inform its decision making on the 2012 Coastal Master Plan?
We are using computer models and a Planning Tool to help us choose the projects that will be included in the plan. These science based tools help us understand the practical implications of different project options and tradeoffs. Based on the outcomes we want for the coast, our tools will suggest a strategy for investing in coastal flood risk reduction and restoration projects. As part of this strategy, the tools will consider the constraints we face; for example, the limited money, water, and sediment that we have to work with. The tools also consider possible future conditions that will affect the way our projects operate, along with other important factors such as construction time and how combinations of projects will work together. These results can be translated so that citizens and state leaders can gain a good idea of the projects’ real world effects.
2. What do the models do?
The models assess two things: how the coast will change in 50 years if no further action is taken to restore Louisiana’s coastal ecosystem and reduce flooding risks, and how the coast will change in 50 years if certain protection and restoration projects are constructed.
3. What is the Planning Tool and how does it work?
The Planning Tool is a decision support system that helps the state choose investments for the coast. The tool performs multiple functions: it integrates information from the models with other information such as constraints, it compares how different coastal restoration and risk reduction projects could be grouped, and it incorporates preferences about what groups of projects should achieve. Many of the tool’s functions are easily run on a laptop-based computer, including interactive visuals that help decision makers compare alternatives and make choices.
4. How is the state analyzing restoration projects versus flood risk reduction projects? Are both kinds of projects evaluated the same way?
As a first step, flood risk reduction projects and restoration projects will be evaluated separately so that we can assess their effectiveness as stand alone initiatives. The state will then create alternatives, or groups of projects, that could work together to achieve the master plan’s objectives. These alternatives will include a mix of restoration and risk reduction projects. The state will use its models and the Planning Tool to evaluate alternatives in order to capture interactions among the various types of projects.
5. How is the state’s analytical process different from what the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) used for the LaCPR effort?
The USACE’s LaCPR efforts focused on developing highly detailed assessments of future hurricane risk under a small number of scenarios and assumptions about future coastal restoration. The state’s 2012 Coastal Master Plan science based tools build on the USACE’s effort and employ some of the same hydrodynamic and wave models. However, the state is also using new models, including hydrodynamic, morphological (wetland and barrier island), ecological (vegetation and upper trophic level), and flood damage models. The Planning Tool will evaluate projects based on a wider range of decision criteria and weights than the USACE employed. Information provided by our technical analysis will help us make informed decisions about which projects would work best to achieve the objectives of the master plan. However, the tools will not make the decisions for us. The hard choices are up to us.
6. How is the 2012 Coastal Master Plan’s development being coordinated with the USACE?
As with the 2007 Master Plan and other restoration and flood risk reduction efforts, the USACE is an integral part of the 2012 Coastal Master Plan team. Several USACE employees are co-located with the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) to serve on the Planning Team. Other USACE personnel are involved in the Framework Development Team as well as other work groups, such as the technical advisory committees. The state envisions working very closely with the USACE through all phases of the master plan’s development.
7. Who is helping CPRA with the technical effort?
Seven workgroups, one for each main model type, are directing the modeling effort, with oversight from state scientists. The Planning Tool has been designed and is being run by RAND Corporation. A 10-member Science and Engineering Board (SEB) made up of scientists and engineers with national and international experience is also providing oversight. This group provides independent technical review of plan elements, with members making specific recommendations about how we can improve the plan. Technical Advisory Committees (TACs) provide ongoing guidance and expertise in specific subject areas, such as modeling and cultural heritage. Focus groups for oil and gas, navigation, and fisheries interests provide essential feedback and perspective as to how changes in coastal policy will affect critical state industries. In all, over 100 people are involved in the planning effort. CPRA is working with several partners, including a Framework Development Team (FDT). The 33-member FDT represents federal, state, and local government representatives, non-governmental organizations, business and industry representatives, and coastal researchers. FDT members are responsible for offering specific guidance on all of the major elements of 2012 Coastal Master Plan.