Investing in Resilient
Infrastructure in the
Gulf of Mexico
Micah Lowenthal, Editor
Erin Mohres, Rapporteur
Office of Special Projects
Policy and Global Affairs
Gulf Research Program
Proceedings of a Workshop
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS 500 Fifth Street, NW Washington, DC 20001
This activity was supported by the Gulf Research Program of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of any organization or agency that provided support for the project.
International Standard Book Number-13: 978-0-309-68847-5
International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-68847-7
Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.17226/26559
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Suggested citation: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Investing in Resilient Infrastructure in the Gulf of Mexico: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/26559.
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PLANNING COMMITTEE FOR INVESTING IN RESILIENT INFRASTRUCTURE IN THE GULF OF MEXICO
DAVID E. DANIEL (Chair), University of Texas
THOMAS BOSTICK, Bostick Global Strategies
M. GRANGER MORGAN, Carnegie Mellon University
SARA ORTWEIN, XTO Energy, Exxon Mobil Corporation (retired)
MICAH LOWENTHAL, Senior Program Director
MONICA STARNES, Senior Program Officer
MEGHA KHADKA, Research Associate
TERI THOROWGOOD, Executive Assistant
CNA Workshop Designers and Facilitators
ERIN MOHRES, Project Lead and Lead Facilitator
SEBASTIAN BAE, Workshop Controller
ANGIE DE GROOT, Facilitator
ELEANORE DOUGLAS, Lead Analyst
MARK ROBERTS, Facilitator
YEE SAN SU, Advisor
RIDDHI SUVA, Facilitator
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This Proceedings of a Workshop was reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in making each published report as sound as possible and to ensure that it meets the institutional standards for quality, objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process.
We thank the following individuals for their review of this proceedings: Maria Honeycutt, The White House; Amanda Martin, State of North Carolina; David Owens, Da’VAS LLC; Hanadi Rifai, University of Houston; Charles Williams, Center for Offshore Safety (ret.); Roy Wright, Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety.
Although the reviewers listed above provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the content of the proceedings nor did they see the final draft before its release. The review of this proceedings was overseen by Gerald Galloway (NAE), University of Maryland, College Park. He was responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this proceedings was carried out in accordance with the standards of the National Academies and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content rests entirely with the rapporteurs and the National Academies.
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The United States is embarking on a surge in investment in maintaining, improving, and replacing infrastructure. Some infrastructure grant programs will see their budgets increase by a factor of 10. These increases are temporary, and even when they are in effect they will be insufficient to fund all of the valuable infrastructure projects that would benefit the nation, so some prioritization will have to be done. These investments present opportunities, which may benefit or harm the lives of our people for the coming decades and beyond. To reap the benefits and avoid the harms, we need processes for informing those prioritization decisions with science, engineering, community involvement, and systems-level thinking that address needs that are changing with our changing environment and uses. As National Academy of Sciences’ President Marcia McNutt noted, the decisions and investments done right will save lives and figuratively pave the way to a more prosperous future.
Many of the federal programs that will receive major infusions of funds have mature processes for deciding among projects and proposals, but they generally only assess options within one sector and only rarely do they factor in the bigger picture of planning for different types of infrastructure or different societal functions or benefits. Because they anticipated this need, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine developed an initiative on infrastructure investment prioritization and decided to begin with an interactive workshop on investing in resilient infrastructure in the Gulf of Mexico region. For this workshop, we convened topical experts, federal managers from multiple agencies, members of the affected communities, state governments, industry, and experts on the science and technology of infrastructure and of the stressors that we expect our infrastructure to face.
Typical workshops are more like symposia, with a series of talks and questions directed to the speakers. This infrastructure workshop was totally unlike those. The workshop began with two stage-setting talks, one from White House National Security Council Director for Resilience and Response Jason Tama, and one from former Commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Tom Bostick. Thereafter, CNA, a nonprofit research and analysis organization, facilitated discussions working through scenarios that the National Academies and CNA designed to explore infrastructure issues in the Gulf region. Because this was not a typical workshop, this summary does not look like a typical National Academies workshop proceedings; a sequential recounting of comments would not as accurately reflect the nature of the workshop as does this synthesis of the remarks, actions, and discussions. This also means that where the text says “Participants said that party X should do Y,” it does not necessarily reflect the consensus of all the participants and it is not a recommendation of the National Academies.
The National Academies are very pleased with the success of the Investing in Resilient Infrastructure in the Gulf of Mexico Workshop. It aligned with the National Academies and the Gulf Research Program’s (GRP) broader vision to support a safer, more resilient, and sustainable future for the Gulf and all those who call the region home, using science, engineering, and medical knowledge to empower its citizens and to enhance Gulf offshore energy safety, environmental protection and stewardship, and health and resilience. By demonstrating a structured process to identify valuable projects and develop a framework to prioritize
investments and seeking to harmonize national, regional, and local interests, this workshop took an important step toward supporting a more resilient Gulf region.
The Planning Committee for Investing in Resilient Infrastructure in the Gulf of Mexico Workshop provided essential guidance and feedback in the development of the workshop. The committee members minimized their participation on the group discussions to ensure that the organizers elicited views and ideas from the invitees rather than the planners. Erin Mohres and her team at CNA did an impressive job developing approaches to help participants work together on the issues that the National Academies identified and to support the overall institution’s and the GRP’s missions and goals, and they ran an excellent event from facilitation to materials. In particular, in addition to Ms. Mohres, Sebastian Bae, Angie De Groot, Eleanore Douglas (Dr. Douglas’s description of the decision framework she put together for this effort is in Appendix C), Mark Roberts, Yee San Su, and Riddhi Suva all made important contributions to the design and implementation of the workshop, and consequently to this proceedings. Monica Starnes, Megha Khadka, and Teri Thorowgood managed the overall project, including input and guidance on substantive content as well as logistical support. All of us foremost are grateful to the participants who brought their expertise, their enthusiasm, and their sense of purpose to this demonstration activity, grappling with engineering, social equity, interoperability, and changing climate.
This workshop should be just the first step in an exciting initiative. Please look out for future activities.
Director, Office of Special Projects
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
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