New program aims to strengthen disaster response in coastal parishes

(from The Advocate \ Della Hasselle \ Nov. 13, 2016)

A new fellowship program organized by Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser and Tulane University’s ByWater Institute aims to bolster disaster response efforts in Louisiana’s coastal parishes.

Slated to begin Monday morning, the fellowship program was created with the support of the Consortium for Resilient Gulf Communities and involves 15 chosen leaders from Jefferson, St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes.

The 15 “disaster resilience leadership fellows” selected from the five parishes will attend a five-day workshop on how to “more effectively develop and coordinate plans that strengthen the resilience of their communities to future disasters such as flooding, oil spills or hurricanes,” according to an announcement from Tulane.

The consortium was established in 2015 with a three-year grant from the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative. Its basic aim is to assess and address the public health, social and economic impacts of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The new fellowship program, called “Planning for Resilient Communities” Executive Leadership Training, is modeled after other programs implemented across the world by the Tulane Disaster Resilience Leadership Academy, according to the announcement.

With the ultimate aim to “strengthen and coordinate disaster response efforts,” the program focuses on uniting leaders across the southeastern Louisiana coastal region with a common vision for the state’s future.

“Through a shared framework, these community stakeholders will ultimately implement plans for resilience building activities that ensure sustainable livelihoods and protect the region’s invaluable natural resources,” the announcement said.

The workshop will be facilitated by experts with previous experience in resilience leadership planning, according to Tulane officials. The experts come from the Consortium for Resilient Gulf Communities, Tulane’s Disaster Resilience Leadership Academy and other programs.

The five-person Louisiana Leadership Advisory Council, chaired by Nungesser, selected the 15 fellows participating in the workshop. They represent a cross-section of constituencies such as government agencies, business, academia and community-based organizations, according to a release.

The workshop will take place at the newly opened Tulane River and Coastal Center riverfront campus at 1370 Port of New Orleans Place, which is home to the Tulane University ByWater Institute.

Nungesser is expected to introduce the program Monday morning and speak about his experience as Plaquemines Parish president during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

He also is expected to comment on “the continued need to strengthen leadership capacity at all levels to deal with current and future threats,” according to the release.

Aside from Nungesser, the Leadership Advisory Council consists of state Rep. Jerome “Zee” Zeringue, R-Houma, a former director of the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority; Joshua Batkin, director of the Office of External Affairs at the Federal Emergency Management Agency; Robin Barnes from GNO Inc.; and Lanor Curole of the United Houma Nation.

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