Jean Lafitte Tomorrow - Town Resiliency Plan

The Town of Jean Lafitte, Louisiana created a comprehensive resiliency plan that reflects its “citizen’s shared vision of resilience,” as developed through a community-based stakeholder engagement process. Defining near- and long-term goals and objectives and explicit policy recommendations, the plan is a roadmap to resiliency for the Town’s economic, social, and ecological systems. The plan intends to preserve local bayou character and culture while reducing Jean Lafitte’s vulnerability to climate change related impacts such as flooding, sea level rise, and hurricanes.

Jean Lafitte is located along the Gulf of Mexico and primarily sits near or below sea level. This exposes the town to flooding risk due to subsidence, hurricanes, tropical storms, and other climate change enhanced weather events. The economy is dependent on the estuary - built on shrimping, fishing, tourism and seafood export industries - which are all extremely vulnerable to these worsening climate impacts, along with the historical and cultural heritage.

The comprehensive and inclusive planning process is detailed in the opening of the report. Several themes were consistently identified by citizens during this process as important - which in turn became the six principles of resilience the plan is framed around: 1) Assess opportunities and threats, 2) Enhance local assets, 3) Focus on the heart of Town, 4) Diversify mobility options, 5) Build stronger and safer, and 6) Live with water.

The plan describes a “slow retreat” into the heart of Town - in which residents of low-lying areas can voluntary relocate nearby into more compact, walkable, mixed-use communities where investments in resilience can be focused first. “What is critical is that there is a fortified place or protected center, where the tradition of the town is preserved in the face of continually changing circumstances.” In this heart of Town vision, the plan depicts a district-wide floodwater management strategy in which water storage should be considered in all development. Suggestions include restructuring or designing public parks to be temporary storm retention areas, pervious pavement parking lots with underwater storage capacity, and green streets - with swales and breaks in the curb for stormwater.

Conserving and restoring surrounding wetlands is a focal strategy also. With sea level rise and extreme flooding events, wetlands along Louisiana’s coast are transforming into open water at an ever increasing rate. The report states that it is estimated that every mile of wetland can reduce storm surge by up to two feet.

The plan includes strategies for land use, transportation, disaster management, economic development, urban design, ecosystem protection, and water management. Some of the climate adaptive policy recommendations are to:

  • Maintain ground water levels to hold water in place and drain only when needed using small strategically placed pumps to limit subsidence.
  • Elevate critical infrastructure, including electrical sub-stations, pump stations, and other infrastructure hubs, above the base flood elevation.
  • Replace mobile homes with more storm-resilient structures, particularly in the lower Lafitte area.
  • Adopt model ordinances outlined in the Louisiana Land Use Toolkit as appropriate to help protect against flooding and other hazards, in conjunction with a form-based code.
  • Promote regional business development opportunities with other communities along the peninsula to create economic stability. 

Appendix A: Additional Funding Sources details several Federal, State and foundation programs available to Jean Lafitte, and others. 

 

Publication Date: April 2013

Related Organizations:

  • Center for Planning Excellence
  • Town of Jean Lafitte, Louisiana

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Resource Types:

  • Adaptation plan
  • Policy analysis/recommendations

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