Georgetown Climate Center and Capital Region Planning Commission launch innovative resilience partnership in Louisiana's Region 7 Watershed

May 11, 2020

The Georgetown Climate Center (GCC) and the Capital Region Planning Commission (CRPC) in Louisiana are launching an innovative partnership to support Louisiana communities in the state’s Region 7 Watershed in protecting people from flooding risks and promoting resilient, affordable housing. Bringing together GCC's nationally recognized expertise in climate adaptation law, policy, and planning, and CRPC's experience in watershed resilience work, the two organizations will work together through 2022 and engage policymakers and community stakeholders to develop legal and policy resources to:

  1. Mitigate flood risk across areas in Louisiana that are mapped as low-, moderate-, and high-flood-risk (through strategies like expanding green space and nature-based solutions); and 
  2. Encourage affordable housing and other investments in locations becoming or expected to become receiving areas as flood risk increases.

Louisiana is one of the hardest-hit areas in the U.S. as climate change and sea-level rise make extreme weather events and regular flooding more intense and frequent. These challenges often fall “first and worst” on communities of color, low-income communities, and Indigenous communities, who reside in the Louisiana Watershed Initiative's Region 7. Affordable, resilient housing initiatives are critical to ensuring equitable adaptation that takes into consideration the myriad overlapping challenges these communities face.

This work will be guided by a work group of individuals with expertise on Louisiana’s climate challenges and the increasing impacts of flood risk to housing. Members include directors of departments in local parishes, leaders of regional non-governmental organizations, academic researchers, and others. The work will also be informed by research and recommendations laid out in GCC's Managed Retreat Toolkit, which draws on best and emerging practices and case studies from across the country of states and communities integrating managed retreat into their adaptation strategies.

"For more than 10 years, GCC has worked to provide policymakers across the country with useful resources that help guide climate-smart adaptation and resilience strategies," said GCC's Acting Adaptation Program Director Annie Bennett. "Louisiana is on the frontlines of sea-level rise and climate impacts, and we're excited to combine our long-standing legal and policy experience with CRPC's extensive local knowledge and innovative watershed-scale approach to help communities stay safe. We hope this work will benefit people here in Louisiana, and provide lessons that can help communities in other parts of the country who are grappling with similar challenges."

Image: A view of Lake Pontchartrain on a late spring day from Fontainebleau State Park

During 2021 and 2022, CRPC and GCC will work together to identify ways that Region 7 and Louisiana communities can realize opportunities for economic growth and improve residents’ lives by increasing resiliency. GCC and CRPC will engage state, regional, and local policymakers and other experts and stakeholders in Louisiana to co-develop innovative strategies and practical steps for identifying and mitigating flood risk in Louisiana communities. Some common solutions to enhance community resilience include: adding parks that provide recreational benefits and decrease flooding by absorbing heavy amounts of rain; and encouraging planning for new resilient, affordable housing to help people grow their families and assets in areas that are already experiencing population growth and that need to prepare to welcome people moving out of high-risk flood zones over time.

“Bringing practical applications to research is a key component of what will make watershed-based work successful. By combining the real-world perspectives and expertise of Louisiana leaders with insights from national experts, we will create new tools that can support local and regional efforts to reduce flood risk to people, housing, and communities,” said Jamie Setze, Executive Director of Capital Region Planning Commission.

As a Regional Planning and Development District, CRPC is the coordinating agency for the Louisiana Watershed Initiative in Region 7. This partnership with GCC will expand on current efforts to support the Initiative's long-term resilience goals.

For questions and more information, contact GCC Senior Associate and project lead Katie Spidalieri at Katie.Spidalieri@georgetown.edu.

Project Work Group

This work is being guided by the work group members below, who are graciously lending their knowledge and lived experiences in Louisiana to this effort in Region 7.

  • Bridget Bailey
    Director of the Office of Community Development with Tangipahoa Parish
  • Evelyn Campo
    Resilience Planning Specialist with Office of Community Development with Louisiana Office of Community Development
  • Chad Carson
    Louisiana Office of Community Development
  • Dr. Thomas Douthat
    Associate Professor with Louisiana State University, College of the Coast and Environment
  • Dr. Monica Teets-Farris
    Director of UNO-CHART (University of New Orleans-Center for Hazards Assessment, Response, and Technology)
  • Jerome Fournier
    Director of Planning & Development with Ascension Parish
  • Devin Foil
    Planner with HNTB
  • Dr. Robert Habans
    Economist with the Data Center
  • Ross Liner
    Director of Planning & Development with St. Tammany Parish
  • Andreanecia Morris
    Executive Director of Housing New Orleans/Housing Louisiana
  • Dr. Zhu Ning
    Professor in Urban Forestry/Ecophysiology and Climate Change at Southern University
  • René C. Pastorek
    Planning and Zoning Director with Saint John the Baptist Parish
  • Karen Zito
    Executive Director of Homebuilders Association of Greater Baton Rouge

This work is generously supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.