FAQs: Planning Tool
1. Why do we need a Planning Tool?
The State of Louisiana is confronting hard choices. We have hundreds of project ideas, different views about how to go forward, and limited budgets. How can we sort through our many options and find those that will work best for us? The Planning Tool, in concert with an extensive modeling effort, offers a way to examine these projects. Using information gained from the Planning Tool, we can better identify and select projects that will provide the greatest return on our investment.
2. What exactly is the tool?
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 predictive models with other information such as constraints, it compares how different coastal restoration and risk reduction projects could be assembled, and it incorporates group preferences about what these project groups could achieve. Many of the tool’s functions are easily run using a laptop-based computer, including interactive visuals that help decisions makers compare alternatives and make choices.
3. What will the tool tell us?
Based on our vision for the coast and the ways we seek to reach that vision, the tool will suggest several strategies for investing in coastal protection and restoration projects. To do this, the tool will consider the constraints we face, such as not having enough funds or sediment to do every project we want to do. The tool will also consider possible future conditions that will affect the way our projects work. By considering these factors, the tool can give us an idea of how groups of projects will work in the future.
4. What will we do with this information?
The tool will not tell us what to do. It will not generate a simple answer or even a single ranking of projects. Instead, the tool will provide scientifically based information about how groups of projects could work together to help achieve our coast-wide vision. The big decisions—choosing what we want and how to move forward—are up to us.
5. What won’t the tool tell us?
The tool does not supply new project concepts. For the 2012 Coastal Master Plan, the tool is examining a list of approximately 400 project ideas that the state and its partners have gathered over the past several years from previous reports and local and federal partners. The tool’s primary value for the 2012 Coastal Master Plan is to help identify a small number of feasible combinations of these projects, based on the coast we want to create in the future.
6. The tool’s results will change based on the questions we ask it. Isn’t that unscientific?
The tool is designed to give us not just one but many sets of results, so that we can see the implications of different preferences on project decisions. For example, we could see which projects rise to the top if we make one of our preferences reducing flood risks for a particular community. The tool will perform this analysis using the best available modeling data. We could then contrast this result with a different Planning Tool analysis that emphasizes keeping costs within our projected budget. By repeating this process for many different preferences, we will be able to identify projects that provide the most benefits.
7. How does the tool work?
Using information generated by the state’s modeling effort, the tool will produce groups of projects, also called alternatives, that achieve coast-wide objectives. In doing so, the tool considers assumptions about future conditions as well as the constraints we face, such as limited funding, water, and sediment. The tool will provide analyses to help highlight the different tradeoffs implied by each alternative. This will help inform our decisions about which projects should be included in the 2012 Coastal Master Plan.
8. Why are we using a computerized tool to do this? Don’t we have plenty of coastal experts in Louisiana?
Louisiana has plenty of coastal experts. We have great researchers as well as tens of thousands of citizens in south Louisiana who know the coast from the inside out. The tool will not replace any of these experts. Its job is to do one thing: show citizens, local leaders, and state planners the practical implications of different project options and tradeoffs. With this information, we can make better choices.
Understanding our options requires us to consider thousands of possibilities. The sheer number of projects, uncertainties, and possible sets of future conditions that must be considered would overwhelm even the best group of experts. The Planning Tool’s results allow us to review all of these variables in a systematic and balanced way, so that we have a strong foundation for making decisions.
9. Who checks the tool to make sure it is working the way it should?
Two external teams are reviewing the tool’s approach and calculations. A Science and Engineering Board made up of national experts provides independent review of the Planning Tool, as well as the project effect models, and the state’s overall planning approach. In addition, the state convened a Technical Advisory Committee to focus exclusively on the Planning Tool. This group, which is also made up of national experts, meets quarterly with the project team to provide guidance and expertise.
10. How can citizens learn more?
The state has staff whose job is to work directly with citizens, making presentations or coming to coastal communities to hold small group meetings. Please email the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority at: MasterPlan@La.gov to learn more. Regional community meetings on the 2012 Coastal Master Plan were held in summer 2011, and formal public hearings will take place in late January 2012. The state will consider ideas and preferences expressed at all of these meetings as it works with the tool over the coming months. Because the tool’s results will be made public, citizens will be able to track how their ideas were used.