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Coastal Projects Front And Center At Terrebonne's Coastal Day

Travis Lux
People mill about the Houma-Terrebonne Civic Center, chatting with friends and representatives of government agencies, non-profits, and businesses.

The state has a coastal master plan to stave off land loss and each parish has it’s own plans for the coast.


In Terrebonne Parish, officials are looking for public buy-in. Earlier this week they invited people to the Houma-Terrebonne Civic Center for Coastal Day -- a science fair of sorts displaying all the coastal projects in their backyard.


Connie Gaines lives in Houma. And she wants to know what parish officials are doing to keep her home -- and the hospital where she works -- safe from flooding. Sea level rise and storms are big threats.


She walks past the kettle corn stand and heads inside to learn more. Gaines and a friend stop at a few booths, grabbing some pamphlets on the way.


They bump into Windell Curole, General Manager of the South Lafourche Levee District. He’s got a huge book of maps, and he uses them to illustrate how vulnerable the Houma area could be if it was directly hit by a powerful storm -- even though it’s not right on the coast.


“These category four and five storms do crazy things,” he says, “Things you can’t even imagine.”


Gaines traces her finger along the map to see how how much water a Category 4 or 5 storm would bring the area.


“Where we're standing right now,” she notices, “We would be standing in well 13 feet of water.”


Curole explains that a new levee system -- called Morganza to the Gulf -- will be 18 feet high.


By the time she makes the circuit around the exhibit hall, she’s seen plenty of infrastructure projects: big levees to keep the water out, pumping systems for when it gets in, companies that raise houses high up above the water. She takes comfort knowing the parish is working to keep her safe, but it’s sobering to see what that takes.


“It's a hard reality to see where Terrebonne Parish can be one day,” she says. “For me, it's just another reality check.”


Support for the Coastal Desk comes from the Walton Family Foundation, the Coypu Foundation, the Greater New Orleans Foundation, and local listeners.

As Coastal Reporter, Travis Lux covers flood protection, coastal restoration, infrastructure, the energy and seafood industries, and the environment. In this role he's reported on everything from pipeline protests in the Atchafalaya swamp, to how shrimpers cope with low prices. He had a big hand in producing the series, New Orleans: Ready Or Not?, which examined how prepared New Orleans is for a future with more extreme weather. In 2017, Travis co-produced two episodes of TriPod: New Orleans at 300 examining New Orleans' historic efforts at flood protection. One episode, NOLA vs Nature: The Other Biggest Flood in New Orleans History, was recognized with awards from the Public Radio News Directors and the New Orleans Press Club. His stories often find a wider audience on national programs, too, like NPR's Morning Edition, WBUR's Here and Now, and WHYY's The Pulse.

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