New Orleans – Resilience Strategy
New Orleans 10 Years After Hurricane Katrina. © Shutterstock
New Orleans, USA is a city located on the Gulf Coast of Louisiana. The municipal population of 380,000 is governed by the City Council and Mayor’s office. In 2005 New Orleans was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, resulting in flooding of an estimated 80% of the city. The City’s recovery from the storm demonstrated their inherent resilience and capacity to bounce back with demonstrable improvements in economic resilience, strong leadership capacity, and resource commitment to the environment. However, many stresses that faced the city prior to Hurricane Katrina persisted, and have been coupled with growing inequality.
Furthermore, the City must address risks unrelated to storm events, like the devastating impacts of the BP Deepwater Oil Spill of 2010 which released over 30 million gallons of oil onto the Gulf Coast’s beaches and wetlands. As stated by the City’s Chief Resilience Officer (CRO), Jeff Hebert, “the challenges we have faced over the past three centuries are different from what we’ll face in the future, we need to be prepared to stand up to these challenges in order to thrive. With guidance from 100 Resilient Cities – Pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation (100RC), the city identified 20 emerging resilience challenges and opportunities ranging from housing affordability, violence, trust in government, coastal protection, energy infrastructure, and culture. This process grounded the cities resilience strategy “Resilient New Orleans: Strategic actions to shape our future city” (resilientnola.org). The goals which the strategy aims to achieve are: 1) adapt to the changing environment by investing in coastal protection, restoration, and comprehensive urban water management; 2) invest in equity for all by promoting better public health outcomes, workforce participation, and social cohesion; and 3) transform city systems by redesigning regional transit systems and improving energy infrastructure. Highlights from the strategy development process below:
Priority areas for intervention & Examples of resilience building efforts
Approaching the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the City committed to using 100RC’s Resilience Strategy Development process to pivot from recovery to resilience to provide a better future for the next generation. Two phases make up the 100 Resilient Cities strategy development process:
- Preliminary Resilience Assessment to diagnose the City’s resilience challenges and broad focus areas in the first phase.
- Deeper diagnostic work to develop a vision of the future, ambitious measurable goals and a plan of action for achieving them in the second phase.
“Being resilient means more than having levees and wetlands to hold back water. To be a truly resilient society means also combating the longstanding, generational challenges around crime, education and income inequality. It means replacing hatred with empathy, disassociation with harmony, and striking a balance between human needs and the environment that surrounds us. Now, the opportunity is to position New Orleans as a global leader on resilience. The people of New Orleans are a profile in resilience, but more must be done to adapt to new and forthcoming challenges facing our environment and opportunity gaps that persist in our City. We don’t want a New Orleans in which people live a block away but are a mile apart in terms of economic opportunity, and our vision with this strategy is to ensure that as we continue rebuilding our city, no one gets left behind.”
- Mayor Mitch Landrieu
New Orleans’ Chief Resilience Officer and his staff led the strategy development process with full mayoral support and a steering committee that recognized the value of creating a resilience strategy and served in an advisory role to the team. To develop a holistic and credible strategy, the development process deliberately engaged stakeholders of all sectors who held relevant knowledge and expertise, and sourced best practices from around the world. Over 350 individuals participated and provided valuable insight into what contributes to and detracts from the city’s resilience, what local expertise and knowledge exist, and what specific needs are not being met.
As focus areas emerged from the Preliminary Resilience Assessment, working groups composed of local and outside experts were convened to further explore them and propose potential approaches and solutions. This led to a more detailed analysis of the specific opportunities within each focus area and resulted in additional workshops on more narrow topical issues such as financing, risk modelling, and design. The stakeholder working group model was crucial to creating ownership of the approaches included in the strategy and the design of projects across sectors. Many of the projects are not designed to be managed directly by the CRO office, so cultivating committed partnerships early in the process has been a key to the strategy’s success. Throughout the iterative process, the CRO and his team relied heavily on the participation of actors across the city and partners outside the city who gave their time and attention to the process because of CRO Hebert’s compelling vision for a more resilient New Orleans. The proposals developed through this process and a thorough review and inventory of planned and ongoing actions already underway in the City were critical in establishing a course of action and inspired much of the content for the strategy.
Resilient New Orleans
Strategic actions to shape our future city was released to a crowd of stakeholders who contributed to its development and a large press corps on August 25th, 2015. The release was planned during the week of the tenth anniversary of the disastrous Hurricane Katrina, as a concrete, strategic roadmap for the City of New Orleans to build urban resilience, marking the start of significant action in the city and a renewed commitment and focus on the future. The strategy proposed 41 actions to build citywide resilience and help New Orleans become a more equitable, adaptable and prosperous place for all of its residents as the City approaches its tri-centennial in 2018. The full Resilient New Orleans strategy, along with information about project partners, is available online at resilientnola.org.
The CRO team is currently engaged in designing a comprehensive implementation strategy in partners with the City’s Office of Performance and Accountability. Performance metrics are being identified at both the project and goal-level for short- and long-term data tracking.
“Resilient New Orleans represents a pivotal step down the city’s path to becoming a resilient city, not the destination. By building the capacity of individuals, institutions, and systems to quickly recover and adapt, New Orleans is poised to become a model of urban resilience, and a great city partner of 100 Resilient Cities.”
- Michael Berkowitz, President, 100 Resilient Cites
Future plans and investments
The newly formed Mayor’s Office of Resilience and Sustainability, led by the City’s CRO, will be responsible for coordinating with partners and agencies to implement the strategy. They city has already begun implementation by leveraging nearly $2 million (USD) of resources from 100RC Platform Partners as well as other local, national and global commitments. The Office of Resilience and Sustainability will also advise the Mayor on policy, guide prioritization, and provide regional leadership on resilience. New Orleans has also created a monitoring plan to measure its resilience performance over time.