Louisiana's 2012 Coastal Master Plan

Louisiana's 2012 Coastal Master Plan, also titled 'Louisiana's Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast,' is a landmark 50-year, $50 billion blueprint for a sustainable coast. This plan, prepared by the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), was passed unanimously by the Louisiana legislature in May 2012. While building off previous plans, the 2012 Coastal Master Plan is the most comprehensive to date, offering solutions to Louisiana’s coastal environmental and engineering challenges.

A list of approximately 400 projects was developed for evaluation in the 2012 Master Plan. Two primary factors drove CPRA's decisions about the projects that were chosen: (1) How well did the projects reduce flood risk? and (2) How well did the projects build new land or sustain the existing land? The Plan includes restoration projects, structural risk reduction projects (e.g. levees), and non-structural risk reduction projects (e.g. elevating homes). The 248 restoration projects are grouped into the following categories: Bank Stabilization, Barrier Island/Headland Restoration, Hydrologic Restoration, Marsh Creation, Sediment Diversion, Channel Realignment, Oyster Barrier Reefs, Ridge Restoration, and Shoreline Protection. 

The Coastal Master Plan includes decision criteria to distribute risk across socioeconomic groups and to support cultural heritage. The plan authors write that "expected annual damages from flooding for low-income areas throughout the coast would be reduced by approximately $75 million with the master plan in place" (p. 150). The plan also would not disproportionately increase flood risks for low-income communities coast-wide. Additionally the plan supports activities that protect traditional communities that depend on natural resources, such as fisheries, for their livelihood.

The objectives of the Master Plan are:

  • Flood Protection: Reduce economic losses from storm surge based flooding to residential, public, industrial, and commercial infrastructure.
  • Natural Processes: Promote a sustainable coastal ecosystem by harnessing the natural processes of the system.
  • Coastal Habitats: Provide habitats suitable to support an array of commercial and recreational activities coast wide.
  • Cultural Heritage: Sustain, to the extent practicable, the unique cultural heritage of coastal Louisiana by protecting historic properties and traditional living cultures and their ties and relationships to the natural environment.
  • Working Coast: Promote a viable working coast to support regionally and nationally important businesses and industries.

The plan improves flood protection for every coastal community in the state, at a minimum through non-structural programs. According to a moderate scenario of future coastal conditions, the projects in the plan have the potential to achieve no net land loss coast wide in 20 years. The plan includes the nation's largest investment, over $20 billion, in sediment mining and marsh creation projects that will provide land building environments. Among many other proposed projects, the plan invests in restoring barrier islands, headlands and shorelines - not only as critical habitats, but as a first line of defense against storm surge. 

Louisiana is in the midst of a land loss crisis that has claimed 1,880 square miles of land since the 1930s. To address this crisis the Louisiana Legislature passed Act 8 in 2006, which created the CPRA and required it to develop a coastal master plan every five years. The first master plan was approved by the legislature in 2007.



Publication Date: May 22, 2012

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