OCD Response to 12/22/2017 Bloomberg Article

OCD Response to 12/22/2017 Bloomberg Article

Louisiana’s coast and the citizens who depend on it are integral to our state and our nation. Increasing its resilience is vital, which is why over the past year the Office of Community Development has been working with our coastal communities as part of an initiative called Louisiana’s Strategic Adaptations for Future Environments, or LA SAFE. Working in six parishes – Terrebonne, Lafourche, Jefferson, Plaquemines, St. John the Baptist and St. Tammany – this collaborative process has included discussions around understanding the current flood risk and developing potential project and policy proposals in anticipation of more frequent and severe flooding. We’ve held 71 public outreach meetings and met with more than 4,000 residents. Nine of those events were held in Terrebonne and were attended by about 350 residents.

On December 27, The Courier printed an article by Bloomberg titled “Louisiana, Sinking Fast, Prepares to Empty Out Its Coastal Plain.” As head of the OCD, I can assure residents the state is not preparing to empty out its coastal plain. The article goes on to incorrectly state the following:

“Louisiana is finalizing a plan to move thousands of people from areas threatened by the rising Gulf of Mexico, effectively declaring uninhabitable a coastal area larger than Delaware.”

“A draft of the plan, the most aggressive response to climate-linked flooding in the U.S., calls for prohibitions on building new homes in high-risk areas, buyouts of homeowners who live there now and hikes in taxes on those who won’t leave. Commercial development would still be allowed, but developers would need to put up bonds to pay for those buildings’ eventual demolition.”

This is simply not true. What is true is that a series of important community meetings were held in the six parishes mentioned above to get input from residents about the challenges they face living along our coast and share ideas about what they want for the future. The discussions produced a wide range of ideas proposed by the community, not the state. Various projects were suggested to help build resilience in each area and at least one project in each of the six parishes will be funded through this program. We are still a long way from developing any policies, but we are starting the discussions in the right place – with the communities who will be most affected by these changes.

The article also says: “Edwards, the Democratic governor, announced his support for the program in March. If he backs its recommendations, the state could create a buyout program or eliminate the homestead exemption for homes in high-risk areas, which would mean higher property taxes for many residents.”

Governor Edwards has been fully supportive of this process, but he has neither started nor directed his staff to begin engaging in discussions that would lead to any policy decisions.

LA SAFE is an open, inclusive, transparent process for engaging the people who live in coastal Louisiana about how best to adapt to a future of rising sea levels and coastal land loss, while maintaining our culture and way of life. It will never promote or support a wholesale effort to “empty out the coastal plain” as the Bloomberg article falsely claims.

Pat Forbes

Executive Director

Office of Community Development, State of Louisiana

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