Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), Baton Rouge Area Foundation (BRAF), Partnership for Our Working Coast (Shell, Chevron, Danos, Port Fourchon, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Environmental Competency Groups and Participatory Modeling

Numerical modeling efforts in support of restoration and protection activities in coastal Louisiana have traditionally been conducted externally to any stakeholder engagement processes.

The Challenge

This separation has resulted in planning- and project-level models built solely on technical observation and analysis of natural processes. Despite its scientific rigor, this process often fails to account for the knowledge, values, and experiences of local stakeholders that often contextualizes a modeled system.

Several recent advances in geospatial technologies allow for the input of qualitative local knowledge into mathematical models and have provided tangible ways to evaluate quantitatively the potential outcomes of restoration and protection projects, which can allow coastal planners to better respond to the short- and long-term needs of impacted communities. The results from these approaches can provide a new, geographically targeted evidence base for planning strategies, especially those focused on mitigation and recovery. Local knowledge mapping (LKM) is one such approach that aims to encourage community members to share knowledge and perceptions of a given area and has been shown to provide an effective means of incorporating community and traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) into a coastal protection and restoration framework.

The Approach

Knowledge capture in this process is facilitated through application of a local knowledge mapping methodology designed to catalog local understanding of current and historical conditions within the estuary and identify desired ecological and hydrologic end states.

The results of these mapping endeavors informed modeling activities designed to assess the applicability of the identified restoration solutions. These efforts were aimed at increasing stakeholder buy-in surrounding the utility of numerical models for planning and designing coastal protection and restoration projects and included an ancillary outcome aimed at elevating stakeholder empowerment regarding the design of nature-based restoration solutions and modeling scenarios.

This intersection of traditional science and modeling activities with the collection and analysis of traditional ecological knowledge proved useful in elevating the confidence that community members had in modeled restoration outcomes.

This approach was used in several coastal Louisiana projects, including efforts to maximize the co-benefits of a beneficial use of dredged material project in Port Fourchon as part of the Partnership for Our Working Coast initiative, to co-design nature-based solutions with residents and fishers in St. Bernard Parish to protect the Breton Sound Estuary, and to identify potential sites for future coastal restoration projects with residents and key stakeholders from lower Plaquemines Parish.