“Building Business Resilience in Delcambre” proposes to work with local officials and community residents by providing education on future sea level rise and storm surge projections for the Delcambre waterfront and by introducing the Community Rating System (CRS) with ways to earn credits to adapt to increasingly higher flood insurance premiums. Local waterfront businesses in Delcambre are vulnerable to sea level rise and increased frequency of storms due to the fact that they are exposed to those elements in their location right on the Delcambre Canal. Many buildings are still abandoned from Hurricanes Rita and Ike. As the community looks at the progress made over the last six years, it is necessary to look toward the future to understand what will make or break future development. This project will help Delcambre look forward to future climate scenarios and learn how to develop in a manner that is physically resilient and financially sustainable.
The Port has an existing relationship with Louisiana Sea Grant through previous projects with Thomas Hymel, Anne Dugas and Lauren Land. Additionally, Melissa Daigle, state extension specialist with the Louisiana Sea Grant Law & Policy Program, has addressed legal research questions for the Town of Delcambre and other communities throughout Louisiana related to legal impacts of sea level rise and the ever-evolving story of Biggert-Waters flood insurance reforms.
Throughout the one-year project time frame, the Port and its project partners plan to meet with local economic development groups to revisit the waterfront Master Plan and assess the needs of waterfront businesses for future development under the specter of increased sea level rise and increased storm surge. To correlate this discussion with flood insurance premiums, project partners propose to understand and explain how reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program plan to incorporate future sea level rise conditions in the flood mapping process. This activity will give local planning groups an idea of what to expect for future sea level rise impacts on insurance for business redevelopment along the waterfront. Then, project partners will educate economic development groups and others (i.e., Iberia Parish Levee Board) about the CRS program and provide information on the mitigation options available to businesses that might earn CRS points. In addition, there are opportunities to engage with a newly established CRS user group in the southwestern part of Louisiana, which includes Vermilion Parish (includes Delcambre). The goal is to have local governmental groups understand sea level rise information and be able to incorporate it into local planning documents in order to lower flood insurance premiums.
In 2005 Delcambre was completely inundated with storm surge from Hurricane Rita, covering most of the community with several feet of floodwater. The waterfront and seafood related businesses were all flooded with saltwater and mud. Homes were flooded, and the tax base for Delcambre all but disappeared. Hurricane Ike visited Delcambre in 2008 with flooding devastation almost identical to Rita.
Historically, the community has survived environmental challenges. Fishermen have gotten their feet back on the ground with seafood catches, and now the focus must switch to the infrastructure needed to support a growing fishing industry. The largest obstacle to moving forward with waterfront redevelopment is creating a case for local investment in a water-dependent community that sits on the frontline of climate change impacts, specifically sea level rise and increased frequency of hurricanes with larger storm surge. The entities responsible for development (i.e., Iberia Industrial Development Foundation) need to look at the future vision for the Delcambre waterfront and identify the limitations for development in the context of climate impacts and higher flood insurance premiums. Now that fishermen are back out on the water with their boats and catching hundreds of pounds of seafood, how can we ensure the vitality of that product when it comes to the Delcambre waterfront? How can the town of Delcambre plan for waterfront facilities that are sustainable in light of future projections for sea level rise and storm surge? The next logical question is what steps can waterfront businesses take to increase resilience and ensure survival in a changing environmental and fiscal climate?