Think Terrebonne: A Creative Community Planning Workshop

Gulf Restoration Network (GRN) and our partner Bayou Interfaith Shared Community Organizing (BISCO) hosted a forum at the North Branch Library in Terrebonne Parish to discuss the “non-structural” program for the 2012 Louisiana State Masterplan for a Sustainable Coast. Wondering what non-structural means? So are a lot of folks, and that’s one reason we convened this meeting.The State has dedicated a significant portion of the Masterplan’s budget to the development and implementation of this so-called non-structural program. Non-structural measures are those that can be taken at the individual level, not those relying on engineers, like levees and marsh creation. These measures are critical to ensuring that high-risk communities along the coastal are better protected from recurring flooding.{source} {/source}According to Melanie Saucier of the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, the agency that authored the plan, there are two types of non-structural measures. Physical measures include elevation of homes and businesses, flood-proofing, voluntary acquisitions or buy outs of flood-prone areas, and community relocation. Programmatic measures are hazard mitigation and recovery planning, public education and outreach, ordinances and building codes, policy and regulatory changes, land use planning & floodplain management.Members of the community got to hear from some great speakers including, as mentioned above Melanie Saucier, as well as Monica Farris from UNO-CHART and Jennifer Gerbasi, the Recovery Planner for Terrebonne Parish Consolidated Government (download the presentations here). Afterward, Patty Whitney from BISCO facilitated a conversation among the attendees to understand what their priorities are for the State’s non-structural program. We learned that members of the community aren’t really clear on the specific risks they face from stronger hurricanes and loss of natural storm protection. More public education in these communities must be undertaken before they can decide what measures they need to take to protect their homes and businesses. As the State begins to solicit input from the public on how to design a program that’s best for their community, they need to make sure that those communities understand the risk of rising seas and eroding wetlands, so they understand why these adaptation measures are critical.Understanding the need for more information, GRN is committed to doing more of these meetings along the coast (look for another later this year). Along with education opportunities, we want to make sure that there is adequate assistance and access to resources that will allow folks to make the best decisions for protecting their families.Finally, we learned (and sort of already knew) that the term “non-structural” is confusing to people and does not accurately describe what we are talking about. So we want to know, what does non-structural mean to you? Knowing the definition, do you have a better term to use? I encourage you to write your suggestions in the comments below! Or email me! Michelle Erenberg is the Special Projects Coordinator and works with the Gulf Future Collaborative, a regional effort to restore the Gulf, defend our communities, and create a clean future.

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