Louisiana should take the lead in figuring out new ways to build safely in areas vulnerable to high winds and flooding rather than waiting for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, a planning expert said Thursday.
"The state of Louisiana is actually a leader at modeling and understanding these problems. Not only does that work for your own survival, but it's something you can export to many of the other settlements that are in flood plains around the world," said John Fregonese, one of the speakers at the annual conference of the Louisiana Chapter of the American Planning Association.
There is no reason Louisiana cannot become the center of expertise in flood-plain building techniques and technology, the same way that California and Japan made themselves into seismic technology centers, Fregonese said. Louisiana should develop model building codes that enhance Louisiana's character instead of relying on regulations put together when Herbert Hoover was president.
Fregonese is helping oversee the Louisiana Recovery Authority's rebuilding efforts. As part of that, LRA consultants surveyed more than 2,500 Louisianians - 500 of them evacuees - to identify their top priorities.
Those priorities include coastal and wetland restoration; levee protection; education; economic development; and affordable housing.
Fregonese said the workshops will result in a vision of where people want the state to be in 30, 40 and 50 years, as well as strategies on how to get there.
The LRA will present these strategies to the entire state in January through an advertising campaign and a one-hour show on Louisiana Public Broadcasting, Fregonese said. Louisiana residents will be asked to vote on the strategies they prefer.
Among the "big ideas" that have emerged so far: building an infrastructure to better connect the Baton Rouge and New Orleans areas.
The two cities, like many other parts of the United States, are forming a metropolitan region, connected by multiple modes of transportation, Fregonese said. Metropolitan regions are very efficient and vibrant economic models.
"Reinforcing it, understanding it, working cooperatively across Baton Rouge will be essential for the future," he said.
Population growth models also show that Lake Pontchartrain will be ringed by five cities, which will also be closely connected, Fregonese said. Development on the Interstate 10-Interstate 12 corridor will be a major factor in the next few decades, and planners need to take that into account when designing communities and projects.
Fregonese said Louisiana's expertise at modeling land use, storm surges, coastal erosion and transportation growth can be used to do better community planning, reinforcing land-use goals.
By coordinating efforts, communities should be able to get enhanced federal funding , he said.
Fregonese said another area that Louisiana should capitalize on is the connection the Napoleonic code gives the state to Latin American countries.
Brazil, Chile, Argentina and Mexico have similarly based legal systems, Fregonese said. By taking advantage of these ties, New Orleans can become a financial, medical and insurance center for Latin America.
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