To save Louisiana’s coast, a lot of science and engineering – and a bit of Khmer

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By Sara Sneath, Environment Reporter

In an attempt to save Louisiana’s coast from land loss and pounding hurricanes, state officials have drafted a 50-year, $50 billion master plan of action, based on the latest science and cutting-edge engineering. But away from the computer and outside the laboratory, they must also navigate the diverse cultures — and languages — in the communities along the Gulf of Mexico.

That was readily apparent Monday night (March 27) when a related, federally funded program called Louisiana’s Strategic Adaptations for Future Environments, or LA SAFE, hosted its first in a series of public meetings to help six parishes adapt. More than 100 Plaquemines Parish residents turned up at the Port Sulphur YMCA community center for a presentation that had the feel of a tech company startup. Tables were covered with maps, brightly colored sticky notes and markers. Each table had a “host” to ask residents questions and a scribe to write down their answers.

For a group of Cambodian Americans at one table, Sandy Prom translated the first set of activities into Khmer. But soon it became clear that the attendees weren’t quite sure what the meeting was about. Would they be receiving grant money, they asked in their native language?

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