Collaboration is Essential to Louisiana’s Coastal Future

The unveiling of the state’s draft Coastal Master Plan earlier this year by our partners in Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, and the subsequent wide-spread support the plan has received as it moves through the state legislature, was greeted by a feeling of pride by our team. This plan represents years of work by our talented scientists on model development as well as extensive research on sediment transport and ecological responses to help the state identify the suite of projects included in the Coastal Master Plan.

But this feeling of pride is not ours alone. Countless scientists, NGOs, private sector partners, residents, state and federal agencies, and university researchers worked to produce this remarkable body of work for coastal Louisiana’s future. It’s the type of collaboration that is essential as Louisiana, and the world, moves into a time when the best science and planning will play such a crucial role in helping communities become more sustainable in the face of change.

When The Water Institute of the Gulf was formed in 2011, some were concerned that the Institute was nothing more than a new competitor for the limited resources allocated to coastal work. Our true competition is sea level rise, subsidence, flooding, community vulnerability, and the shared imperative to get this right. Saving our coast and exporting our knowledge around the world requires an all-hands-on deck approach. We need the best minds to work together to save our way of life.

During my tenure as the inaugural executive director of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, my job was to find common ground between five governors and six federal agencies. It wasn’t easy but we made great progress and got the job done. I bring that attitude—consensus and collaboration is possible when good people come together to tackle the hardest problems—to the Institute.

Over the past three months, I have had the opportunity to speak to many groups, from the national Council on Foundations to Louisiana’s Sea Grant Advisory Council to the American Council of Engineering Companies of Louisiana (just to name a few). It’s my privilege to reiterate the Institute’s mission to conduct applied research to help policy makers arrive at decisions informed by the best available science. Together, we want to provide practical answers, through cutting-edge science, to allow those critical decisions, engineering plans, and construction schedules to move forward.

I have truly enjoyed the opportunity to reconnect with colleagues from across the Gulf of Mexico and come to know many new people and organizations that the Institute has worked closely with for years including nonprofits, universities, and private sector firms.

The Institute does foundational science in conjunction with many of our university partners and my conversations with the leadership of LSU, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, UNO, Tulane University and others indicate those partnerships will grow even stronger. Part of that growth will be through the Institute’s role as the RESTORE Act Center of Excellence for Louisiana. While the Institute is not eligible for Center of Excellence research funding, we are charged with the critical mission of administering a grant program to support cutting-edge research in furtherance of the State’s Coastal Master Plan.

These, and many other partnerships, represent an exciting future that we can all build together. As we move forward, please contact me if you’d like to collaborate with our team. To get this right, we need your help. Please step up and join the effort to bring the best science in the world to bear in saving our coast.





Justin Ehrenwerth
President and CEO