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Water expert Henk Ovink visits Louisiana to discuss international best practices for watershed management

Jun 25, 2019


BATON ROUGE, La. (May 24, 2019) – Centuries of living below sea level and adapting to changes in climate give the Dutch a unique perspective on living with water, Henk Ovink, Special Envoy for International Water Affairs for the Kingdom of the Netherlands told a crowd Thursday night at the Center for Coastal and Deltaic Solutions.

“In the 12th century, a community in the Netherlands got together and said, ‘I want dry feet,’” Ovink said. That started a long history of working together to create land and protect communities.

That doesn’t mean that farmers, homeowners, or landowners willingly move whenever the government needs their property for flood control.

“That doesn’t make them happy. They’ll take you to court,” he said. However, by working together, by making sure everyone understands the issues, by integrating community thoughts and projects into the planning, finding solutions that work now and into the future is possible. “There is no silver bullet.”

Ovink’s comments Thursday continued Friday during his two days in New Orleans and Baton Rouge meetings with water industry and resilience leaders. His visit was the result of the most recent Louisiana leadership mission to the Netherlands, when Ovink was invited to travel to Louisiana to meet with Governor John Bel Edwards and lead a best practices workshop as the state moves forward with the Louisiana Watershed Initiative.

“Henk has been a great friend to all of us in Louisiana and it’s a pleasure to have him back at this important time,” said Justin Ehrenwerth, president and CEO of the Institute. “Henk’s deep experience developing solutions to the most pressing water issues around the world is so valuable as we continue to develop the planning and programming for the Louisiana Watershed Initiative.”

Ovink currently serves as the first Special Envoy for International Water Affairs for the Kingdom of the Netherlands and serves as Chairman of Deltares’ International Advisory Committee and is one of the foremost international thinkers on sustainable, resilient coastal infrastructure and communities.

Ovink has worked on many high-profile projects, including serving as a senior advisor to the U.S. government and the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force. In conjunction with this work around Hurricane Sandy, Ovink leveraged U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development money to develop and lead a design competition, Rebuild by Design, which has become a model to help governments create more resilient cities and communities through collaborative research and design.

During his time in Louisiana, Ovink met with the leadership of The Water Institute of the Gulf, GNO Inc., toured the LSU Center for River Studies and led a workshop to discuss international best practices for watershed management.

Photos available here.

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