JESCO Environmental and Louisiana Silver Jackets Program

Identifying the vulnerability of critical infrastructure

Spatial and Temporal Variations in Exposure and Sensitivity to Coastal Flooding Resulting from a 100-Year Storm Event

The Challenge

When storm surge and extreme rainfall events innundate an area of coastal Louisiana, it’s not just homes and businesses that receive damage. Critical facilities such as fire stations, hospitals, and emergency response facilities that are crutial to a community’s ability to respond are at risk as well.  Additionally, teh protection of essential facilities such as governement offices, banks, and schools are vital componets  of the community’s short- and long-term recovery.

This vulnerability of these critical lifelines to coastal flooding will continue to grow for some communities even as the state of Louisiana moves forward with a comprehensive Coastal Master Plan for restoration and protection. According to the the most recent iteration of this blueprint for coastal Louisiana, even if all projects in the plan are completed in the next 50 years, increased sea level rise estimates mean Louisiana will continue to see land loss which makes it’s essential to identify areas of vulnerability as communities work on adapting for the future. 

The Approach

The Water Institute of the Gulf, along with federal and state agency partners, received funding in 2016 from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to launch a project focusing on identifying and evaluating the vulnerability of critical and essential facilities in two pilot study locations – south Lafourche Parish and Morgan City.

This study looked at modeled flood levels within both pilot locations resulting from a 100-year storm event under current environmental conditions.  The impacts of flooding on critical and essential facilities under current conditions are compared to three sea level rise scenarios included in the Coastal Master Plan over three time periods of 10, 25, and 50 years, providing officials with an adaptation timeline tool that can be used to prioritize locations and facilities requiring nonstructural protection.

By comparing these potential flood maps to current land use cover – separated into low, medium, and high density– over time, it’s possible to see where the residents and facilities facing the greatest risk into the future are located. This information is also combined with modeled storm surge data developed for Louisiana’s 2017 Coastal Master Plan, record research, and on-the-ground observations, to assemble a picture of not only the flood risk these communities face now, but what they could face into the future.