Case-Study Details

Main Information
Title Anticipating Social and Economic Effects of Louisiana Coastal Restoration Projects
Type of Information Workshop Paper
Description This case study illustrates how the principles of Social Impact Assessment (SIA) are being applied to identify and analyze the social and economic effects of coastal Louisiana restoration activities. An SIA funded by the Louisiana Governor’s Office is assessing five completed coastal freshwater re-introduction projects to better understand the potential impacts of two proposed projects using similar technology. Freshwater re-introduction can restore marsh function to the more productive fresh-water levels and avoid marsh deterioration by saltwater intrusion resulting in the dieback of sediment-holding grasses. Despite being well thought out from an engineering/ecological/geologic perspective, freshwater re-introduction efforts have been challenged due to inadequate prior assessment of the ways in which salinity changes and altered hydrodynamics would affect the human communities that live within the impact area, especially those community members who engage in long-practiced commercial or recreational uses of the areas (Laska et. al, 1993).  
While many Louisiana residents are aware of the significant wetland loss that occurs along the state’s coastal zone, there is little agreement among concerned community stakeholders, and local, state and federal government officials on the best method to address the problem. The result has been social and economic impacts that were unrecognized and recognized impacts that were unresolved. Litigation and excessive court settlements arising from the unmitigated impacts of restoration projects are the strongest indicators of the outcome of not anticipating and responding to the impacts that occurred. However, there has been a variety of other impacts that have been observed and from which lessons can be learned. 
The alarming rate of coastal land and resource loss has prompted attempts to address the problem with large-scale projects that would potentially provide the greatest positive ecosystem impact to the widest area possible. However, such projects also increase the possibility of greater social impacts to the human communities living within the projected impact areas. The magnitude of potential positive impacts to the environment and therefore, to the people who interact with it, have lead to the conclusion that freshwater re-introduction projects are the most likely type of restoration activity to bring about major social changes, and thus are also by virtue of their magnitude the most likely to result in controversy.  
These impacts, both positive and negative, should have been more robustly identified and a mitigation plan developed prior to project implementation of the existing projects in an effort to maximize positive and minimize negative social and economic effects of coastal restoration projects. The difficulties facing Louisiana’s attempts to address coastal erosion call for analyses to include variation over time and location to be sufficiently comparative in order to identify the potential influences on social life (Freudenburg and Gramling, 1993). The research will suggest refinements to the SIA process used by the collaborating state and federal agencies so that it can be used effectively for retrospective analysis, prospective analysis and for programmatic analysis i.e. “big picture” analysis rather than merely single project analysis as is customarily done (McKay and Nides, 2005). A further goal is to demonstrate to coastal stakeholders the utility of SIA in the design of restoration projects and to make suggestions for better stakeholder involvement in the planning process toward the goal of more effective implementation of project design objectives. 
Web Link /impact/case-studies/cs-impact-iaia-2005-en.pdf
Additional Information
Authors Broderick Green, William Kappel, Shirley Laska and Bob Gramling
Reference / Citation Green, Broderick, William Kappel, Shirley Laska and Bob Gramling (May 2005). Social and Economic Impacts of Coastal Restoration Projects. Poster presentation at the International Association for Impact Assessment Annual Conference, Boston, MA. Pg 145.
Programme Areas Impact Assessment
Ecosystem Approach
Marine and Coastal Biodiversity
Countries United States of America