Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority

Louisiana Barrier Island System Management (BISM): Structured Decision-Making

Coastal Louisiana’s barrier island systems are an important component of the Mississippi River Delta Plain, providing ecosystem services such as habitat, storm-surge buffering capabilities, and playing a role in maintaining marine and estuarine gradients.

The Challenge

There has been a multidecadal effort in Louisiana to restore these rapidly degrading barrier islands, which has been effective in preserving and protecting most of these barrier islands along the coasts. There is an opportunity to improve the long-term impact of future restoration efforts, and reduce the overall cost of barrier island maintenance, however, by taking a more holistic approach in barrier island system management.

In response, Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) tasked the Institute with developing a framework for a Barrier Island System Management (BISM) plan.

The Approach

The goal of BISM is to implement a holistic, long-term approach to adaptively manage Louisiana’s coastal systems by maintaining barrier island functions over the next 50 years. BISM will be informed by long-term monitoring data, breach management storm response strategies, regional sediment management, and environmental and societal needs. Models for predicting the natural evolution of the coastal system and tools for budgeting costs will be tailored to fit within the BISM framework, which will also consider ways to improve the regulatory process for project implementation.

To develop BISM, the Institute and CPRA partners are employing a structured decision making (SDM) approach. SDM is a strategy for systematic decision-making based on a clear identification of objectives and goals. This approach can effectively leverage tools and information to predict the deliberate and unintended consequences of decisions and uses concrete metrics in evaluating the costs and benefits of alternatives, such as barrier island restoration projects.

In the initial steps, the Institute and CPRA are summarizing potential areas of stakeholder concerns and potential sources of data and model outputs relevant to BISM, and developing a best practices report to inform prioritization of barrier island restoration projects. Recognizing that BISM will continue to evolve and improve with new tools and data, this report will also include a conceptual framework for the future development of a more quantitative approach to cost-benefit analysis of barrier island restoration projects.