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Assisted Resettlement and Community Viability on Louisiana's Gulf Coast: Proceedings of a Workshop (2023)

Chapter: 2 Community Perspectives on Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities for Coastal Louisiana

« Previous: 1 Introduction and Background
Suggested Citation:"2 Community Perspectives on Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities for Coastal Louisiana." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Assisted Resettlement and Community Viability on Louisiana's Gulf Coast: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26774.
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2

Community Perspectives on Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities for Coastal Louisiana

“Part of the reason why we’re here today is because we understand the sacredness of our land, and unfortunately, our lands are eroding very rapidly. So, in honor of our sacred lands, and all sacred lands, I ask you to just give thanks, say a prayer, be appreciative, and think about the ways that you can contribute to protecting and preserving your space on these lands that we hold so dear.”

Native Land Acknowledgement

Chief Shirell Parfait-Dardar, Grand Caillou/Dulac Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw and Chair, Louisiana Governor’s Commission on Native Americans

During the workshop’s opening remarks on July 26, 2022, John Ben Soileau, the Study Co-Director and Program Officer at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, acknowledged the critical importance of environmental preservation and cultural continuity amidst a rapidly changing environment. Jay Clune, the President of Nicholls State University, highlighted that Nicholls is only 24 miles from the coast, but when it was founded in 1948, it was 50 miles from the coast. Clune has seen land loss firsthand and emphasized that it was “forcing a managed retreat” from the coastlines and the lower part of the parishes.

Jessica Simms, an Associate Program Officer for the Gulf Research Program at the National Academies, spoke about the Gulf Coast being home to many people who can trace their family history back a number of generations. Many more people have been drawn to the communities

Suggested Citation:"2 Community Perspectives on Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities for Coastal Louisiana." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Assisted Resettlement and Community Viability on Louisiana's Gulf Coast: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26774.
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for their natural beauty, deep cultural heritage, and new opportunities. Simms said, “Together, the people of the Gulf share a unique sense of place, and it’s the people who, in turn, make the Gulf Coast such a desirable place to live and work. However, for many, that sense of place—that place called home—is increasingly under threat.” Rising seas and loss of land are redefining coastal landscapes. Flooding is becoming more widespread throughout urban, rural, and coastal communities. Simms pointed out that these changes and events are affecting people’s lives, and the trend is accelerating. As a result, she said, “homes are damaged, communities are losing connectivity with each other and to critical lifelines and services, neighborhoods are becoming fragmented, and properties are being bought out or abandoned.”

Simms explained that steps must be taken throughout the relocation or resettlement process, including both “ends of the migration equation”—from frontline communities to receiving communities—to guide and assist those in harm’s way. Simms noted that, in addition to the directly affected communities, the roles of receiving communities that work on behalf of those who have been displaced need to be considered. “It’s important for the region and the nation to get this right,” Simms stated, saying that this will require elevating the perspective of those directly affected as well as fostering collaboration among community members, governments, and nonprofit organizations. She concluded by saying that hearing workshop participants’ lived experience, expertise, voices, and stories is critical to informing the national dialogue on what is needed to help communities transition and will help inform Gulf Research Program activities.

COMMUNITY PERSPECTIVES FROM LOUISIANA’S BAYOU REGION

The facilitator Alessandra Jerolleman, a Community Resilience Specialist and Applied Researcher from the Lowlander Center, opened the panel by asking everyone to keep in mind that coastal Louisiana is a place with history, people, and culture. She emphasized in her context-setting remarks that these are “people’s lives that are being talked about. Many of these people are in situations and circumstances that are a product of processes that have occurred over time, and these stories are the embodiment of their lived experiences.”

Elder Rosina Philippe, Atakapa-Ishak/Chawasha Tribe and President of the First Peoples’ Conservation Council of Louisiana

Elder Philippe lives in Grand Bayou Indian Village, located off Louisiana’s mainland in South Plaquemines Parish. She stated that the

Suggested Citation:"2 Community Perspectives on Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities for Coastal Louisiana." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Assisted Resettlement and Community Viability on Louisiana's Gulf Coast: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26774.
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members of the Atakapa-Ishak/Chawasha Tribe have been inhabitants of coastal Louisiana for centuries. She remarked that the term “managed retreat” seems neat and organized, but she pointed out that moving can be chaotic. She also noted that managed retreat is not just about moving one person or one family; it involves taking into consideration the movement of entire communities. For tribal and Indigenous communities, their culture, ceremonies, and traditions are all connected to place. Elder Philippe noted that, therefore, considerations need to include how a move could affect future generations, especially in regard to how traditions are carried out and passed to the next generation. She passionately stressed that “there is no such thing as management of that process unless the people that need to relocate to another area have come to that determination and are in charge of the entire process.” Elder Philippe also emphasized that there should be consideration and resources for people who want to remain. Additionally, she pointed out that many challenges these communities face are not a result of their own actions. The extraction of resources from the environment by outsiders is detrimental to their way of living, and she would like this to be taken into consideration.

John Doucet, Dean of Sciences and Technology, Nicholls State University

Doucet talked about the history of Bayou Lafourche in southeastern Louisiana in the context of community retreat. In the later part of the 1700s, mass settlements established the population and culture of Bayou Lafourche. He mentioned the 1785 settlement of approximately 1,600 Acadian refugees in Spanish Louisiana, most of whom settled along Bayou Lafourche and eventually migrated to the Gulf Coast over the next century. One site of this migration was the coastal community of Cheniere Caminada, which attracted people from around the world. Many came to engage in the fishing industry there—including the Acadians as well as people from Croatia, the Philippines, and China. In the communities along the lower Bayou Lafourche, particularly Golden Meadow, shrimping was the predominant industry from the 1920s through the 1940s. Then in the late 1930s oil was discovered, bringing in an influx of Texans and others from around the country. Doucet said his hometown of Golden Meadow, LA, became an oil boomtown. Eventually, with the discovery of oil offshore, the town developed into a mecca for boat building and offshore services.8

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8 Doucet explained that these services began with locals using their shrimp boats to deliver supplies to drilling operations in the marshes and eventually offshore, later developing into a “large supply industry of specialized boats and ships, pipeline supply companies, and food providers.”

Suggested Citation:"2 Community Perspectives on Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities for Coastal Louisiana." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Assisted Resettlement and Community Viability on Louisiana's Gulf Coast: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26774.
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At the turn of the 20th century, three of the most severe hurricanes to ever hit the Gulf Coast devastated the area and led to a retreat from the coast. The Hurricane of 1893 killed almost 2,000 people; with approximately half of the 1,500 residents of Cheniere Caminada perished. The survivors never returned. Two more major hurricanes followed in 1909 and 1915 that caused further retreat to communities up the bayou—an adaptation strategy that continues today. Doucet discussed culture and history that may become lost as communities move and coastal land disappears. To give an example, he spoke about the Golden Meadow Historical Center, which collected artifacts of town history and culture, among which were stories of historical storms and hurricanes suffered by the town folk. He discussed how, ironically, Hurricane Ida destroyed the Historical Center’s roof and many of those artifacts. Doucet concluded by sharing that Nicholls—where 87 percent of students, faculty, and staff call a coastal parish their home—is building a coastal center9 that will focus not only on community preserving solutions such as levees and water systems mitigation of coastal land loss, but also on preserving culture.

Chief Shirell Parfait-Dardar, Grand Caillou/Dulac Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw and Chair, Louisiana Governor’s Commission on Native Americans

Chief Parfait-Dardar explained that her people understand that to survive, they will have to adapt and be resilient, and there will necessarily be some tough choices. They intend to protect and preserve the lands they have left. She described how the tribe’s future chief, Devon Parfait,10 took a map from the 1800s showing large tracts of land that sustained their people and environment. He then overlaid a current map to determine the extent to which they overlapped. His doing this helped to visually show how much land had been lost and explain why they had to move over time. Now her people face resettlement to another area, which is very challenging to confront and plan for. She stressed that not everyone would leave, which must be respected.

Chief Parfait-Dardar emphasized that everyone needs to be included in managed retreat discussions, especially those who are being impacted. The ways this process has been conducted previously are not suitable for her community. Previous efforts did not involve the affected community from

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9 More information about the Center for Bayou Studies at Nicholls State University is available at: https://www.nicholls.edu/center-bayou-studies/

10 At the time of this workshop, Young Chief Devon Parfait was the future chief of the Grand Caillou/Dulac Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw but in August of 2022, he transitioned to the role of chief. The titles used in this report reflect the titles used at the workshop.

Suggested Citation:"2 Community Perspectives on Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities for Coastal Louisiana." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Assisted Resettlement and Community Viability on Louisiana's Gulf Coast: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26774.
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the start of the process to its completion. While she thinks this is changing and more inclusion is occurring, she went on to say that it is not enough. She pointed out, “if you have a group of people that are making decisions about another group of people, and none of those people were in the room, then you’re not helping; you’re simply causing harm.” Her people are undertaking this effort on their own to ensure that they maintain the integrity of the community, their voices are heard, and their needs are met. She hopes they can share their experience with other communities facing similar situations.

Gary LaFleur, President, Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Foundation and Professor, Biological Sciences, Nicholls State University

Gary LaFleur discussed how the Center for Bayou Studies (the Center) at Nicholls State University examines the coast’s biological, physical, and geological components. LaFleur stressed the importance of adding sociocultural dimensions to these three components and explained that the Center intends to include “the people of the coast” as one of its priority areas of study. He noted that there is not currently a textbook on the human dimensions in the context of Bayou Studies, but there are some academic resources11 that could be used. He also shared two strategies that he uses with students. One is to take students to the Chauvin Sculpture Garden12 on Bayou Petit Caillou. He has found it is easy for students living inland to overlook people living on the coast. When he takes students there, they inevitably talk about the people who live there, providing a living lesson. The other strategy he mentioned is to introduce students to coastal region songs and culture through the Cajun Music Preservation Society.13

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11 For examples of resources, see: Simms, J.R.Z., Waller, H.L., Brunet, C., and Jenkins, P. (2021). The long goodbye on a disappearing, ancestral island: A just retreat from Isle de Jean Charles. Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, 11(3), 316–328. Simms, J.R.Z. (2021). Solastalgic landscapes: Prospects of relocation in coastal Louisiana. Frontiers in Environmental Science, 9. Colten, C.E., Simms, J.R.Z., Grismore, A.A., and Hemmerling, S.A. (2018). Social justice and mobility in coastal Louisiana, USA. Regional Environmental Change, 18(2), 371–383. Simms, J.R.Z. (2017). “Why would I live anyplace else?”: Resilience, sense of place, and possibilities of migration in coastal Louisiana. Journal of Coastal Research, 33(2), 408–420, 413. Colten, C.E., Kates, R.W., and Laska, S.B. (2008). Three years after Katrina: Lessons for community resilience. Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development, 50(5), 36–47.

12 More information about the Chauvin Sculpture Garden is available at: https://www.nicholls.edu/center-bayou-studies/chauvin-sculpture-garden/

13 More information about the Cajun Music Preservation Society is available at: https://bayouarts.org/portfolio_page/cajun-music-preservation-society/

Suggested Citation:"2 Community Perspectives on Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities for Coastal Louisiana." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Assisted Resettlement and Community Viability on Louisiana's Gulf Coast: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26774.
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Chief Albert Naquin, Jean Charles Choctaw Nation

For approximately twenty years, Chief Naquin has been working to resettle members of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Tribe, which included people living on Isle de Jean Charles (IDJC). The IDJC is a community in South Terrebonne Parish, off the coast of Louisiana, that is surrounded by water and connected to the mainland by a road that can become impassable during heavy rain events (see Figure 2-1).

In 2002, the tribal council decided to resettle inland after finding out that the Morganza to the Gulf of Mexico project14 did not include protection for IDJC. An opportunity to relocate was offered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers but was unsuccessful since it required 100 percent of the population of IDJC to agree to participate and that level of consent could not be reached. After Hurricanes Gustav and Ike devastated IDJC in 2008, resettlement efforts restarted, but failed due to resistance by non-Indigenous people who lived next to where the resettlement was to take place.

In 2016, Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery funds were awarded to the State of Louisiana Office of Community Development-Disaster Recovery Unit through the National Disaster Resilience Competition,15 which included funds to implement LA SAFE16 and to develop The New Isle17—a planned community forty miles north—for the resettlement of IDJC residents. Chief Naquin stated that he is trying to get the resettlement process back into the hands of the community members. Overall, he does not think the resettlement of the Isle de Jean Charles has been a success.

Windell Curole, General Manager, South Lafourche Levee District

An event that shaped Curole’s life was a 1973 meeting with a geologist who explained how the geology—and specifically the delta—in coastal Louisiana differs entirely from anywhere else in the United States. The Mississippi River’s basin drains water from 41 percent of the contiguous

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14 The Morganza to the Gulf of Mexico project will include levees, floodgates, and water control structures in parts of Terrebonne and Lafourche Parishes that “aims to protect people and property as well as the remaining fragile marsh from hurricane storm surge.” More information is available at: https://www.mvn.usace.army.mil/About/Projects/Morganza-to-the-Gulf/

15 The State of Louisiana received 92.6 million dollars, 48.3 million dollars of which was allocated to the Isle de Jean Charles resettlement. Louisiana Division of Administration. (n.d.). Recovery programs. National Disaster Resilience Competition. (2016). from https://www.doa.la.gov/doa/ocd/recovery-programs/

16 LA SAFE. (2019). Our land and water: A regional approach to adaptation: Louisiana’s Strategic Adaptations for Future Environments (LA SAFE). Available: https://lasafe.la.gov/

17 More information about The New Isle is available at: https://isledejeancharles.la.gov/new-isle

Suggested Citation:"2 Community Perspectives on Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities for Coastal Louisiana." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Assisted Resettlement and Community Viability on Louisiana's Gulf Coast: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26774.
×
Image
FIGURE 2-1 A photo of “Island Road,” a low-lying causeway across open water that connects Isle de Jean Charles to inland communities and is subject to periodic flooding.
SOURCE: Betts, G. (2022), Island Road, photograph. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
Suggested Citation:"2 Community Perspectives on Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities for Coastal Louisiana." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Assisted Resettlement and Community Viability on Louisiana's Gulf Coast: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26774.
×

United States. Therefore, the soil in coastal Louisiana comes from other places—from Western New York to Montana and up to Canada. According to Curole, if time-lapse photography over the last 5,000 years were done,18 it would show the Mississippi River moving back and forth, and instead of spewing just water, it moves mud. People have settled on top of the sediment of the Mississippi River basin. There has been a history of relocation, for many reasons, in coastal Louisiana. According to Curole, “south Louisiana’s controlling factor is not climate, right now. It is subsidence and continues to be subsidence.” One example Curole provided is the community of Leeville, which is lower than it was in 1915, due to a combination of subsidence and sea level rise.

The Swamp Land Act of 1850 (9 Stat. 519, Chapter 84) allowed Louisiana to work to “reclaim the Swamp Lands” by controlling the Mississippi River using levees and ditches for flood protection and navigation. Curole pointed out that when big things are done, the result is usually not entirely good or bad. He added that the negative impacts of the levee system can now be seen; over the last 50 years the Gulf of Mexico “has gotten 30 miles closer to everybody.” On the other hand, his community would be gone if a levee system had not been built. Some people want to avoid future risks, but for many people, the place they grew up “is like a family member” and the levee system is changing that place. His closing point was that local knowledge could be mixed with technical expertise to create an understanding of Louisiana’s geology to deal with issues and move forward intelligently as a community.

Chief Romes Antoine, Avoyel-Taensa Tribe

Chief Antoine explained that the Avoyel-Taensa Tribe, located in the central part of Louisiana, is much smaller than it previously was. Chief Antoine cited conflicting claims over who the descendants of Avoyel’s first tribe actually are as a possible reason they have not yet been recognized by the state or federal government as a Native American tribe. He noted they are trying to reclaim land that they previously possessed in the area—but it has been a fight on which he did not wish to comment further. Even though they have problems, he said they are doing their best to live among other tribes and other peoples. He went on to say they are also proud of their affiliation with the coastal tribes and try to work together with them when possible.

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18 A visual representation of the meandering of the Mississippi River over time is available at: https://www.nps.gov/vick/learn/nature/river-course-changes.htm

Suggested Citation:"2 Community Perspectives on Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities for Coastal Louisiana." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Assisted Resettlement and Community Viability on Louisiana's Gulf Coast: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26774.
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Nicole Cooper, Director of Administration, Town of Jean Lafitte

Cooper shared that the communities of Lafitte, Barataria, and Crown Point in southern Louisiana have endured 25 named storms in the last 30 years. Of these, Hurricane Ida was the most catastrophic. Following Hurricane Ida, the federal government provided Louisiana with 2.6 billion dollars for supplemental disaster relief, primarily for flood protection projects. The communities of Lafitte, Barataria, and Crown Point, although some of the hardest hit, did not receive any funding. Cooper said this was not the first time the area was not included in the distribution of flood protection funding. For example, the 14.45 billion dollar Hurricane and Storm Risk Reduction System19 that was built following Hurricane Katrina included 1.1 billion dollars to build the largest pump station in the world.20 Its purpose was to reduce the risk of flooding for residents and businesses in three parishes, including Orleans, Jefferson, and Plaquemines, on the west bank of the Mississippi River. She said the pumps move 150 gallons of water a second—about 15 Olympic-sized pools every minute—to the south, with the communities of Lafitte, Barataria, and Crown Point south of the pumps.

Cooper explained that the state of Louisiana has committed to funding 300 million dollars in tidal protection projects in the area,21 despite its not receiving any federal funding for flood protection. In addition, she went on to say, over the last 20 years, federal, state, and local funds have been used to make numerous capital improvements, including: 35 million dollars to elevate 200 homes in the area; 25 million dollars for town buildings; one million dollars for a waterline; two million dollars for sidewalks; 16.5 million dollars for sewer improvements; 65 million dollars for bridges; and 17 million dollars for drainage. Currently, there are 20 drainage projects in the design stage. Cooper stated that with all of the investment and associated improvements in the area “the idea of relocation is not really an option.” She went on to point out that, furthermore, the area is rich in heritage and culture. It is known for hunting, trapping, and fishing and contains the largest shellfish-producing community in the United States. It is also home to the first Filipino settlement in the United States. She concluded by emphasizing that the cost of relocating the Town of Jean Lafitte would far exceed the cost of providing adequate protection.

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19 More information about the West Closure Complex is available at: https://www.mvn.usace.army.mil/Portals/56/docs/PAO/FactSheets/WCC.pdf

20 Shaw, A. (2015). 5,000-horsepower engines fire up world’s largest pump station. nola.com. https://www.nola.com/news/environment/article_69051ee5-6a30-5171-a3f0-ccf26d842913.html

21 More information about the funding commitment is available at: https://gov.louisiana.gov/index.cfm/newsroom/detail/2648

Suggested Citation:"2 Community Perspectives on Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities for Coastal Louisiana." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Assisted Resettlement and Community Viability on Louisiana's Gulf Coast: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26774.
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Elder Theresa Dardar, Pointe-au-Chien Tribe, Lafourche/Terrebonne Parish

Elder Dardar’s ancestors have lived for centuries along the Bayou Pointe-au-Chien in the southern part of Terrebonne and Lafourche Parishes. They are “bayou people” with a unique tribal cultural heritage in a place where they can cross the road to get to work and catch shrimp for dinner. Elder Dardar compared the prospect of moving to “taking a fish out of water.” She went on to say that when her great aunt was moved in her nineties to St. Bernard, it “was like taking the tree and ruining it and not replanting it, because she died not long after she made the trip to St. Bernard, and she was healthy when she left.”

Most of the tribal area was excluded from the Morganza to the Gulf project, but flooding has also occurred in areas that will be protected when the project is completed. She acknowledged that maybe one day they will have to consider relocation—but for now, relocation is not something her community is ready to talk about or do. She went on to point out that they are trying to save the community where they live and the lands around their cultural sites, such as sacred cemeteries and mounds. She also noted small efforts such as a “living shoreline” project that uses oyster shells to protect against erosion. Estimating that it would probably cost more to move everyone than to protect them, she suggested, “why not protect the same place and keep us there? We don’t want to move.”

ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION: NUANCES OF RESETTLEMENT

The moderator, Alessandra Jerolleman, started the roundtable discussion by emphasizing that places are more than just points on a map, and resettlement cannot be reduced to “simply grabbing a suitcase and moving on.” She then went on to share some themes she heard the panelists raise in their presentations:

  • Community-led relocation efforts have been difficult and challenging because of current regulations and requirements, so several participants suggested that managed retreat should not be the only option considered;
  • Several panelists noted long histories of dispossession and genocide and want it to be taken into consideration that there is a risk of these practices continuing when discussions occur without everyone at the table;
  • Participants addressed the importance of partnerships and of having stakeholders support one another; and
Suggested Citation:"2 Community Perspectives on Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities for Coastal Louisiana." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Assisted Resettlement and Community Viability on Louisiana's Gulf Coast: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26774.
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  • “Everything is in relationship with the land, with the ecosystem, [and] with each other.” Multiple participants noted that topics that are at the forefront of conversation in one area often do not carry the same cultural distinctiveness and context in a different area (e.g., further inland).

Natural Processes and Resources

Elder Philippe stated that an essential part of the conversation should be about the possibility of sheltering in place, which is to say the right of people to self-determination—especially for coastal Louisiana Indigenous populations that have lived on these lands for thousands of years. They survived flooding in the past by elevating structures and homes to let natural processes work around them. Newcomers came into the floodplain area, removed resources from the coastal environment, and have tried to control the natural processes. She went on to say that due to this, her community lacks some of the protections they once had. Instead of trying to control and manipulate the environment, she suggested looking at processes and projects that can work in conjunction with the natural way things happen in order to protect and preserve the environment.

Harriet Festing, a committee member, asked about the resources extracted from the region and possible ways to repair the land and ensure people feel protected. Elder Philippe explained that the oil and gas industry created thousands of canals that have contributed to coastal erosion, saltwater intrusion, and subsidence. She went on to point out that when extraction activities are close to coastal lands, the extraction process destabilizes the coast. Permission was given for these extractive activities, but the canals were supposed to be backfilled when the work was finished. Elder Philippe stated that there has to be responsibility taken and accountability administered to correct the damage done not only to the coastal tribes, but also for the state as a whole.

Curole spoke about the history of oil and gas development and efforts to maintain environmental protection in Louisiana.22 He said the state of Louisiana has only received a small amount of taxes that the offshore oil and gas industry has paid the federal government since 1995. Efforts by former Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco led to the U.S. Senate passing the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, under which Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, and Alabama will share 37.5 percent of revenues from new

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22 For a detailed history of oil and gas development and environmental protection, Curole suggested: Theriot, J. (2014). American Energy, Imperiled Coast: Oil and Gas Development in Louisiana’s Wetlands. Louisiana State University Press.

Suggested Citation:"2 Community Perspectives on Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities for Coastal Louisiana." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Assisted Resettlement and Community Viability on Louisiana's Gulf Coast: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26774.
×

production in federal waters.23 Still, it has been a continual battle to get a fair share. He pointed out that, at the same time, some companies are doing positive work. An example he noted was ConocoPhillips and its assistance in facilitating the establishment of terraces around the levee system in Lafourche.

Low-cost and Low-tech Restoration Work

An audience member asked if there were other examples of restoration work that, like the living shoreline project, were low-cost and low-tech. Elder Dardar responded that work is underway to backfill canals; however, permissions and additional funding sources are needed. She noted it would save the land and cost less to backfill canals24 than to build a diversion that could flood nearby parishes. Since oil and gas companies were supposed to leave the land more or less in its original condition, as they found it when they arrived, LaFleur noted that Elder Dardar was “trying to do work that someone else should have done a long time ago.” He said Louisiana’s Coastal Master Plan25 has always included information relating to human dimensions and nonstructural restoration strategies (e.g., floodproofing, voluntary acquisition).26 He added that, at the same time, progress is still needed on how communities can work through coastal changes. Curole pointed out that when living in an area with extreme weather, “you gotta expect it, plan for it, and learn to build smartly.”

Pathways to Engagement and Collaboration

In Jerolleman’s experience working with communities, people have not always been invited to participate in community engagement processes. Plus, when they are invited, they are not always heard, and this can lead to adverse outcomes. She asked what could be done to provide community-led discussions that account “for the cost of participation.” She went on to say that “the cost of participation” can include time and the “trauma

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23 For additional information about Blanco v. Burton, the lawsuit that resulted in this revenue sharing, see: https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/235288964.pdf

24 According to the Lowlander Center, “Over the past century, extractive energy industries have dug more than 35,000 canals in southeast Louisiana, resulting in 10,000 miles of disrupted wetlands. More than three-fourths of these canals are no longer in use; however, they were not filled back in.” More information is available at: https://www.lowlandercenter.org/canal-backfilling

25 More information about Louisiana’s Coastal Master Plan is available at: https://coastal.la.gov/our-plan/

26 More information about the Coastal Master Plan’s nonstructural restoration strategies is available at: https://mississippiriverdelta.org/handbook/cpras-nonstructural-program/

Suggested Citation:"2 Community Perspectives on Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities for Coastal Louisiana." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Assisted Resettlement and Community Viability on Louisiana's Gulf Coast: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26774.
×

of spinning your wheels, saying the same things to the same people who don’t necessarily do more than make up a note on a piece of paper or on a computer.” Jerolleman also noted that community engagement processes can sometimes lead to negative outcomes.

Curole responded that some tradeoffs take place in coastal zone management. Pointing out that every community needs three things—a good environment, an economy, and an infrastructure—he emphasized that often a compromise, one element in relation to the other two, is necessary. He added that different methods may be needed at various times to do what is best for the community, but if the community takes the lead, the best solution can often be determined. Curole went on to say the action that ends up being taken might be very helpful to some people, but not to everyone, so it is essential to be honest about this fact and try to be fair. His community would not exist if the levees had not been built—but he realizes at the same time that some people were negatively impacted, and he is trying to make up for that by “mak[ing] the attempt to be as fair as possible.”

Elder Dardar stressed that her community members know their landscape and associated subtleties better than any outsider can, so it is vital that they be present to discuss anything involving their community. Elder Philippe pointed out that some strides have been made towards establishing a collaborative effort to find the solutions for issues that people are facing—but there is still a long way to go. She emphasized that, furthermore, the survival of people who have lived in a certain place for centuries depends on recognizing and chronicling subtle environmental nuances. In the past, contributions to the discussion made by local community members were often viewed as anecdotal or non-scientific. That has improved, but there is “still a long road to go,” Elder Philippe emphasized, for there to be true collaborative efforts based on mutual respect and a shared objective.

Craig Colten, a committee member, asked what the first steps might be in order to assure a respectful and adequate discussion about two possibilities: (1) the process of remaining safely in place for those who choose to do so and (2) a safe way to resettle for those who want to move. He suggested one possible way to address the need for community representation from start to finish could be by providing funding to communities so they can hire their own experts. Jerolleman acknowledged that existing models of engagement and participation designed to include community groups and tribes in discussions, such as providing them with resources to attend, do not resolve the challenge faced when processes and meetings are happening almost simultaneously and in different places (e.g., Baton Rouge, LA, and Washington, DC). The scheduling, time, and energy it takes to meaningfully participate is very difficult for people. This challenge can be an ongoing problem even when there is a paid position for a community representative.

Suggested Citation:"2 Community Perspectives on Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities for Coastal Louisiana." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Assisted Resettlement and Community Viability on Louisiana's Gulf Coast: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26774.
×

Elder Dardar replied that a member of each tribe or the president of the First People’s Conservation Council (FPCC)27 should be invited to participate in any discussions involving coastal communities because “we’ve worked together” and “we help each other in any way we can.” Curole pointed out that because of “where [coastal Louisiana residents] live, the way we think, and what we do is in the minority,” the seat at the table needs a heightened level of power and influence tied to it for when negotiations are made. Chief Antoine remarked that getting a seat at the table is good, but if no one listens or is willing to help, it does not make a difference. Elder Philippe suggested policy changes be made through collaboration and conversations with people facing critical, life-changing issues—such as relocation—so that the result will be based on informed decisions. Elder Dardar responded that it is important to remember these communities are the buffer for the inland communities—so “by saving us, you save yourself for future years to come.”

Displacement Impacts on Community Well-being and Individual Health

Gary Belkin, a committee member, asked about emotional burdens and challenges related to displacement. Elder Philippe replied that since her community can only be accessed by water, water is part of everyday life. She emphasized that, for this reason, from an Indigenous coastal perspective, relocating to another area would change who she and her people are by taking away the connection to the place they have thrived for centuries. She noted that beyond just the physical movement of people and associated geographical displacement, there are related issues to be considered. For example, relocating to another area would create turmoil for many people, and she wonders whether or not this experienced turmoil might be passed on to future generations. Elder Philippe recalled the impact on her father of a hurricane evacuation which caused him “a lot of physical and mental stress—and his spirit was troubled.”

Doucet stated it is important to address mental and emotional burdens among the current generation because stress can alter traits parents pass to their children—a phenomenon called epigenetic modifications of the stress axis. He recalled watching an interview where a question was asked about what community members did to help one another after returning to a town devastated by a tsunami in Japan. A man replied, “mostly, we don’t talk about it. The emotional turmoil is so severe, we just go about our business and don’t talk about it.” Doucet related this recollection to what happened in Cheniere Caminada after the 1893 hurricane. He commented that it is

___________________

27 More information about the First People’s Conservation Council of Louisiana is available at: https://fpcclouisiana.org/

Suggested Citation:"2 Community Perspectives on Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities for Coastal Louisiana." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Assisted Resettlement and Community Viability on Louisiana's Gulf Coast: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26774.
×

remarkable how people around the world behave similarly with regard to natural disasters and the consequent displacement from their homes.

Receiving Communities

The last question for the panel was from Jerolleman about how those who live in inland areas can be partners in conversations about receiving communities. Chief Antoine, who lives in an inland area, noted that their land is very different from the coast, and for this reason they survive differently. However, he went on to say, all members of Louisiana tribes try to work together even though they are in different areas. His tribe has been working towards receiving federal funding to build shelters for people in the lower-lying areas so his community can have a safe place for native and non-native people to stay during or after a hurricane.

Suggested Citation:"2 Community Perspectives on Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities for Coastal Louisiana." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Assisted Resettlement and Community Viability on Louisiana's Gulf Coast: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26774.
×

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Suggested Citation:"2 Community Perspectives on Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities for Coastal Louisiana." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Assisted Resettlement and Community Viability on Louisiana's Gulf Coast: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26774.
×
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Suggested Citation:"2 Community Perspectives on Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities for Coastal Louisiana." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Assisted Resettlement and Community Viability on Louisiana's Gulf Coast: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26774.
×
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Suggested Citation:"2 Community Perspectives on Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities for Coastal Louisiana." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Assisted Resettlement and Community Viability on Louisiana's Gulf Coast: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26774.
×
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Suggested Citation:"2 Community Perspectives on Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities for Coastal Louisiana." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Assisted Resettlement and Community Viability on Louisiana's Gulf Coast: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26774.
×
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Suggested Citation:"2 Community Perspectives on Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities for Coastal Louisiana." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Assisted Resettlement and Community Viability on Louisiana's Gulf Coast: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26774.
×
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Suggested Citation:"2 Community Perspectives on Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities for Coastal Louisiana." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Assisted Resettlement and Community Viability on Louisiana's Gulf Coast: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26774.
×
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Suggested Citation:"2 Community Perspectives on Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities for Coastal Louisiana." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Assisted Resettlement and Community Viability on Louisiana's Gulf Coast: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26774.
×
Page 11
Suggested Citation:"2 Community Perspectives on Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities for Coastal Louisiana." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Assisted Resettlement and Community Viability on Louisiana's Gulf Coast: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26774.
×
Page 12
Suggested Citation:"2 Community Perspectives on Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities for Coastal Louisiana." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Assisted Resettlement and Community Viability on Louisiana's Gulf Coast: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26774.
×
Page 13
Suggested Citation:"2 Community Perspectives on Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities for Coastal Louisiana." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Assisted Resettlement and Community Viability on Louisiana's Gulf Coast: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26774.
×
Page 14
Suggested Citation:"2 Community Perspectives on Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities for Coastal Louisiana." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Assisted Resettlement and Community Viability on Louisiana's Gulf Coast: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26774.
×
Page 15
Suggested Citation:"2 Community Perspectives on Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities for Coastal Louisiana." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Assisted Resettlement and Community Viability on Louisiana's Gulf Coast: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26774.
×
Page 16
Suggested Citation:"2 Community Perspectives on Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities for Coastal Louisiana." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Assisted Resettlement and Community Viability on Louisiana's Gulf Coast: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26774.
×
Page 17
Suggested Citation:"2 Community Perspectives on Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities for Coastal Louisiana." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Assisted Resettlement and Community Viability on Louisiana's Gulf Coast: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26774.
×
Page 18
Suggested Citation:"2 Community Perspectives on Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities for Coastal Louisiana." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Assisted Resettlement and Community Viability on Louisiana's Gulf Coast: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26774.
×
Page 19
Suggested Citation:"2 Community Perspectives on Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities for Coastal Louisiana." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Assisted Resettlement and Community Viability on Louisiana's Gulf Coast: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26774.
×
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In 2021, the Gulf Research Program of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine sponsored a two-year consensus study, Managed Retreat in the U.S. Gulf Coast Region, to examine and make findings and recommendations regarding the unique challenges associated with managed retreat among vulnerable coastal communities in the region.

To gather information for the consensus report, the authoring committee convened a series of three public workshops in the Gulf Coast region. The workshops, held in June and July of 2022, focused on policy and practice considerations, research and data needs, and community engagement strategies. This publication summarizes the presentations and discussions of the workshops.

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