Press Releases

New report from Tulane/Institute looks at investment and adaptation in vulnerable communities

Jul 25, 2019

Facing multiple challenges from rising seas to repetitive flooding, a new issue paper from the Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law & Policy and The Water Institute of the Gulf examines the “tipping point” factors that may decide when coastal communities may find they can no longer continue.

If a community suffers repeat flooding and businesses and people decide not to rebuild, that impacts the tax base which in turn effects how much money can be spent on keeping up infrastructure for the remaining residents. At what point does this negative feedback become too large to sustain a community and what that “tipping point” can tell decision makers is the subject of “Finding the Means: Investment and Adaptation in Vulnerable Communities.”

Because the prospects for community viability depend on multiple and interconnected factors, the paper is divided into two chapters. The first focuses on some of the broader legal, policy, and financing issues and opportunities that will shape the decisions communities face as they decide if and how to invest for their futures.

The second chapter focuses on the importance of understanding the histories, attitudes, and experiences of specific communities, as well as how decisions are made in those communities and by whom.

By better understanding the “architecture” of how decisions are made and what factors influence them, the hope is that future discussions and plans concerning the fate of coastal communities will be more comprehensively informed and lead to more effective and equitable decisions and actions.

In addition to analysis of populations, tax base, and a number of other factors, the paper includes the input of a number of community conversations in Houma, Buras-Triumph, and Cameron Parish.

Residents provided their thoughts about the acceptability of a number of funding streams that could be raised in order to reduce risks from floods and what they believed was needed in order for more residents to stay and what additional challenge would create a tipping point at which they would leave. Strong ties to community was a prominent reason of why residents would stay. Some participants owned or lived on land that had been in the family for up to seven generations, creating an extremely high sentimental value for the property. Some properties along the coast also have value due to mineral rights.

“You would be surprised,” a participant elaborated, “but there are some people who live in Plaquemines Parish that have never been out of the parish. That’s a fact… So that’s how strong that people in this area believe in staying home… They’ll figure out a way, even if they have to live on their boat.”

Possible reasons for why residents would leave ranged from the availability of jobs and necessary services to flood insurance and future home values. The same population decline that caused an outflux of businesses also significantly reduced tax bases, which has left parishes like Cameron struggling to cover the costs of basic services such as paying wages to their firefighters. Already operating on a shortage of paid and volunteer firefighters, losing even more due to wage cuts would be harmful to the parish. “Fire rating is gonna go up, and insurance rates go up – to the homeowner. And right now, our rating in that district is like the highest it can be… We had four fires in this community last winter. They all burned to the ground. By the time they get there, if it's half an hour and the wind's blowing, it's over.” “Finding the Means: Investment and Adaptation in Vulnerable Communities” and is available at the Tulane Institute of Water Resources Law and Policy website here.

Mark Davis
Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy
504-865-5982/504-919-8324 or at

Scott Hemmerling
The Water Institute of the Gulf
225-228-2101 or at

Kristen Hilferty
Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy
504-865-5847 or at