Community Resettlement Prospects in Southeast Louisiana

Community Resettlement Prospects in Southeast Louisiana: A Multidisciplinary Exploration of Legal, Cultural, and Demographic Aspects of Moving Individuals and Communities. An Issue Paper of the Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law & Policy September 2014.

From the report:

This paper is a multidisciplinary approach to framing the potential for community resettlement in Southeast Louisiana. The paper has three sections: a survey of legal mechanisms used by the federal government to relocate individuals and resettle communities; a history of community dislocation in Southeast Louisiana; and a demographic analysis of the Louisiana communities facing the highest risk of displacement. …

Despite a variety of legal mechanisms available to the federal government when it wishes to move people, history has shown that implementing and properly funding such projects takes many key elements lining up and remaining aligned for the duration of the project. A local history has led to inherent distrust of government programs that could potentially help Louisiana communities. Those in harm’s way have a demographic profile largely of marginalized populations. These issues combine to create in Southeast Louisiana a difficult environment for successfully moving people away from environmental hazards while allowing them to keep their communities and cultures intact.


The report assumes that the Master Plan will provide 500 year protection to the urban areas and 100 year protection to most of the rest, and that it will all get built on time, before there is another storm. This leaves 15% of the census tracks at risk, but that is only a tiny % of the population. In their final conclusions they seem to be saying that relocation is so expensive and difficult that maybe we should think about spending more money and protecting everything. Thus the report finds that it would be difficult to move the easiest populations. The Master Plan is unlikely to be built at all, and even if built, will not provide 500 year protection anywhere. This report must be read as saying that retreat, at least in the politically sensitive way that the authors desire, is impossible. This leaves the specter of retreat driven by catastrophic community disasters, which is not an attractive alternative. At heart, this report does not really engage that the alternative to relocation for these communities is obliteration. With that as an alternative, might it be possible to come up with a relocation/retreat strategy that is possible, if not ideal?


Problems are always easier to solve if you ignore the hard parts.