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1 Introduction The National Research Council (NRC) Committee on the Review of the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration (LACPR) program was charged to review two draft reports from the LACPR team and to assess âthe hurricane risk reduction framework, alternatives for flood control, storm protection, coastal restoration, and risk analysisâ (the committeeâs full statement of task is listed in Appendix A). This NRC committeeâs first report was issued in 2008 (NRC, 2008). This is the committeeâs second and final report and it represents the committeeâs review of the âLouisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Program,â a draft technical report issued by the Corps of Engineers in March 2009 (USACE, 2009). Before discussing and evaluating the LACPR 2009 draft final report, this chapter summarizes this committeeâs first report (NRC, 2008). FIRST REPORT FROM THE NRC COMMITTEE ON THE REVIEW OF THE LACPR PROGRAM This committeeâs first report consisted of a review of a draft LACPR report issued in February 2008 (USACE, 2008). This committee met with LACPR staff in New Orleans in March 2008 to discuss that report and the committeeâs report was issued in May 2008 (NRC, 2008). The NRC report identified areas for improvement in the three main sec- tionsârestoration, structural, and nonstructuralâof the LACPR draft report (Figure 1 shows the LACPR study region). It also included advice regarding the presentation of key assumptions that were important to the study. One overarching comment pertained to congressional intent within the 2006 authorizing legislation for the LACPR study. The 2006 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act (P.L. 109-103) states: 6
Introduction 7 Provided further, That using $8,000,000 of the funds provided herein, the Secretary of the Army, acting through the Chief of Engineers, is directed to conduct a comprehensive hurricane protection analysis and design at full federal expense to develop and present a full range of flood control, coastal restoration, and hurricane protection measures exclusive of normal policy consid- erations for South Louisiana and the Secretary shall submit a preliminary technical report for comprehensive Category 5 protection within 6 months of enactment of this Act and a final technical report for Category 5 pro- tection within 24 months of enactment of this Act: Pro- vided further, That the Secretary shall consider provid- ing protection for a storm surge equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane within the project area and may submit re- ports on component areas of the larger protection pro- gram for authorization as soon as practicable: Provided further, That the analysis shall be conducted in close co- Â© International Mapping Associates FIGURE 1: LACPR study area of southern Louisiana
8 Second Review of LACPR Draft Report ordination with the State of Louisiana and its appropriate agencies. The 2006 Defense Appropriations Act (P.L. 109-148) states: that none of the $12,000,000 provided herein for the Louisiana Hurricane Protection Study shall be available for expenditure until the State of Louisiana establishes a single state or quasistate entity to act as local sponsor for construction, operation and maintenance of all of the hurricane, storm damage reduction and flood control projects in the greater New Orleans and southeastern Louisiana area. The 2008 report from this NRC committee acknowledged that, âThe congressional language authorizing the LACPR study and report presents some ambiguities for the LACPR team.â It also stated that âIt is not clear to the NRC committee that the intent of Congress was that, owing to the urgency of providing hurricane protection to the State of Louisi- ana, the LACPR team was to provide a design for immediate implemen- tationâ¦â The NRC report also states that âThe congressional language, despite ambiguities, does request ââ¦analysis and design.ââ (NRC, 2008, emphasis in original). The report noted that the LACPR draft technical report presented al- ternatives and methods for comparing various plans, but did not identify a single best course of action. The prior 2008 report from this NRC committee concluded that âThe lack of some prioritization of alterna- tivesâbased upon their relative merits in terms of costs and restoration and risk reduction potentialâconstitutes a weakness with the draft tech- nical report.â The NRC report also recommended that âFuture versions of the LACPR report will be of greater value to the extent that they iden- tify projects of higher priority that promise to yield greater and more immediate benefits in terms of flood risk reduction and ecosystem resto- ration.â Other key findings and recommendations from the 2008 NRC report include: Restoration â The report noted that the LACPR draft report âpro- vides no evidence that it will be possible to maintain the current land- scape given current and prospective future rates of subsidence, degrada- tion, and sea level rise. At the most basic level, there is no analysis of
Introduction 9 the amount of available sediment relative to the amount that will be re- quired to sustain the wetlands. If wetlands cannot be maintained, the draft report misleads the public into believing that the present coastline can be held in the face of relative sea level rise. All plans that would rely upon maintenance of the existing shoreline then are suspect. Also, if wetlands cannot be maintained, this implies that decision makers and citizens ultimately will have to make hard choices about where restora- tion can take place and where it cannot.â The report also recommended that âThe LACPR study team should develop sediment budgets for the wetlands of coastal Louisiana to deter- mine the feasibility of maintaining coastal Louisiana in roughly its pre- sent condition.â Nonstructural â The NRC report noted that âThe LACPR draft technical report calculates risk reductions from nonstructural measures assuming 100 percent compliance by residents of the region. Yet, par- ticipation in these programs will be voluntary and actual compliance is likely to be far less than 100 percent.â It also stated, âThe technical re- port does not rigorously assess the degree of risk reduction that would be achieved if more realistic participation and compliance rates are ap- plied.â The NRC report also found that âAlthough a great deal of public opinion has been solicited to date by the LACPR staff, the draft technical report provides little evidence of a unified planning effort among these different governmental levels and bodies.â The NRC report also noted that the LACPR draft report did ânot suggest policies and programs that could be employed to encourage high rates of adoption of nonstructural measures.â Structural â The NRC report found that the LACPR draft technical report did ânot consider the potential for structural failure of levees and floodwalls. As a consequence, the true risk to homes and businesses and people behind structures has not been determined.â That report also included discussion of possible realignment of the lower Mississippi River. Such a proposal would divert sediments that now are lost to the deep water of the Gulf of Mexico, to wetlands across the Mississippi River delta. This type of realignment likely would entail substantial disruptions and costs to commercial navigation. The report noted that âgiven the scale of coastal restoration envisioned within the LACPR report, and the large amounts of sediment necessary to achieve this restoration, changes to the alignment and levee system of the lower Mississippi River may be required for restoration actionsâ (NRC, 2008). The report went on to recommend that an evaluation of how a major re-
10 Second Review of LACPR Draft Report alignment of the riverâs mouth may affect sediment capture and diversion be conducted. The remainder of this report constitutes a review of the LACPR 2009 draft final technical report and is divided into three main sections: the future course of action; key scientific, engineering, and other technical topics; and future hurricane protection planning and project implementa- tion1. 1 The LACPR 2009 draft final technical report did not identify any preferred plan or plans. This committeeâs report thus does not examine cost estimates in the LACPR report, as a review of cost estimates for all the plans that were con- sidered would have had little value.