E-alert 1: Executive Summary of Stakeholder Workshops  

Louisiana Speaks Administration
Louisiana Speaks Regional Plan:
Stakeholder Workshops Executive Summary

Louisiana Speaks brought together stakeholders from across the Louisiana coast for six workshops in July and August, 2006. During day-long sessions, participants provided critical and creative input for shaping policy on coastal restoration and storm protection; community growth and transportation infrastructure; and economic development and equity.

Participants collaborate during the New Orleans workshop on July 20, 2006.

Members of the local religious, business, non-profit and environmental communities were invited, as well as key public officials, and many walk-ins were also welcomed. More than 800 participants converged on New Orleans, the Northshore of Lake Pontchartrain, the Houma/Thibodaux area, Baton Rouge, the Lafayette/Acadiana area, and the Lake Charles/Cameron area. In addition, interviews with approximately 150 New Orleans community leaders will provide further feedback.

Stakeholder workshops represent the mid-point of the regional planning process. The planning team has already spent months researching, acquiring data, analyzing long-range trends, examining existing plans, and meeting with area planning agencies and civic leaders to build an extensive database of existing conditions. Initial research also included a survey of more than 2,500 Louisianians, including evacuees dispersed across 27 states.

Then, the planning team studied and mapped one possible "virtual future" for South Louisiana. This merely projects forward from post-hurricane present, depicting a future characterized by the same trends, growth patterns and policy decisions seen in Louisiana in recent decades. The stakeholder workshops were designed to gather input for creating blueprints for alternatives to such a trend-driven future.

The Workshops
Participants at the all-day events worked around tables of 8 to 10 people. The day had three hands-on exercises: coastal restoration and storm protection; community growth and transportation infrastructure; and economic development and equity.

The coastal restoration and storm protection exercise was developed in conjunction with LSU's Coastal Louisiana Ecosystem Assessment and Restoration project (CLEAR), and in consultation with Louisiana's Coastal Restoration and Protection Authority (CPRA).

Maps showing coastal restoration (left) and storm protection/levee alternatives.

Participants were armed with general information about storm protection, timetables, cost factors, and habitat impacts of different strategies. Then they were asked to select from three generalized coastal restoration alternatives and two storm protection options.

The community growth and transportation exercise guided participants through a discussion of current trends and transportation investments and then asked them to allocate projected future growth and plot supporting transportation investments on a regional map.

Composite map showing growth allocation from the Baton Rouge and New Orleans workshops.

The economic development and equity exercise was developed in close cooperation with LRA's economic development staff and PolicyLink, a group specializing in linking equity and economic development. Participants received detailed information on current economic and demographic conditions in Louisiana. Then, they discussed desired outcomes, listed assets and barriers, and proposed strategies for stimulating a stronger economy for South Louisiana.

Key Findings
Participant consensus emerged on many issues critical to creating a long-range vision for South Louisiana. Among them:

  • On coastal restoration and storm protection, there was overwhelming support for a combination of aggressive coastal restoration and strategic levee protection. A majority of participants supported regional coastal wetland restoration strategies that combine slower, more sustainable natural river diversions and water management with faster-acting pipeline conveyance of sediment to create new wetlands and barrier islands.
  • Strategic levee alignments that concentrated protection around urban areas were also generally preferred to coast-wide solutions.
  • On community growth and transportation infrastructure, participants overwhelmingly favored a shift toward more compact, less car-dependent development patterns across South Louisiana.
  • Many also felt that New Orleans' recovery should be linked into a multi-modal regional transportation system.
  • Among these "big ideas" proposed for regional recovery and growth were regional rail, highway enhancements, a new regional airport, and closing the MR-GO canal east of New Orleans.
  • On economic development and equity issues, participants favored thorough educational reform, improved government transparency, increased regional cooperation, enhanced and integrated use of Louisiana's multi-modal transportation system, and support for small business and entrepreneurship.
  • They also proposed building industries that leverage existing assets and needs, for example: coastal science, new building technologies, the energy sector, alternative fuels, and biotechnology, as well as the film industry.

Next Steps
The workshops resulted in more than 80 workshop table maps consisting of preferences for coastal restoration and levee protection, land use patterns, transportation investments, economic development actions and outcomes. All workshop data - qualitative, quantitative, and spatial - is being digitized, tabulated, and compiled in order to inform the development of scenarios that will be used to model possible futures for South Louisiana over the following months. Desired transportation alignments, land use patterns, and protection schemes will be developed during the fall to determine the feasibilities, costs, and storm-safety consequences of particular scenarios. Results from the economic development exercise will provide a basis for potential strategies and actions to achieve a more equitable and prosperous future.

These scenarios and the possible futures they represent will be introduced to the public in January 2007 through an extensive public outreach process, including open houses, printed materials, online interaction, and video presentations. The public will then be asked to indicate their preferences. The input from this wide-ranging outreach process will shape the Vision and Long-Range Plan for South Louisiana, which will be completed in March 2007.

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Louisiana Speaks is a multifaceted planning process, endorsed by the Louisiana Recovery Authority, to develop a sustainable, long-term vision for South Louisiana in the wake of the destruction caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
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