New research effort aims to make Louisiana a leader in coastal adaptation

Mar 13, 2018

A new research initiative by the Water Institute of the Gulf will both develop solutions for living on Louisiana's ever-changing coast and potentially export those ideas to far away communities coping with frequent storms, flooding and rising seas.

Called the "Resilience Lab," the initiative draws its initial funding from a $200,000 Greater New Orleans Foundation grant announced Tuesday (March 13). The New Orleans-based lab would "incubate" ideas and then craft best practices for wide use in and outside Louisiana, said the Water Institutes' Jeff Hebert, who will lead the lab.

"This will bridge science and the communities most at risk," Hebert said at a press conference announcing the initiative.

While the Netherlands has led the world in adapting to sea level rise, flooding and subsidence, Louisiana can serve a similar leadership role in the U.S., said John Davies, president of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, another supporter of the Water Institute.

"San Francisco woke up to a brand new report that it's subsiding, and Miami is in a world of fright right now," Davies said. "It's an international challenge, and it's exciting that the science we generate here can provide solutions for us and other places."

Hebert said the lab "has several ideas brewing," including a system to assess the success of coastal protection and restoration projects, and a series of recommendations for how to fund future projects.

"We want to look at what it takes to transform a community beyond (the use) of federal grants," Hebert said.

As federal funding opportunities wane, other options, including state, local and private dollars, may grow in importance, he said.

The Water Institute's mission is to help south Louisiana communities prepare for the continued loss of the state's coastline and increased risk posed by storms and floods. The Resilience Lab will work in collaboration with Tulane University's ByWater Institute and Columbia University's Center for Resilient Cities and Landscapes.