By Dr. Scott C. Hagen

Dr. Hagen is a professor at Louisiana State University (LSU) and Principal Investigator (PI) for the Coastal Resilience Center project Development of an optimized tide and hurricane storm surge model for the northern Gulf of Mexico (MS, AL, FL) for use with the ADCIRC Surge Guidance System.” A version of this information originally appeared in the Year 2016 Issue 4 edition of “Hydrolink,” a publication of the International Association for Hydro-Environment Engineering and Research.

Homes flooded near Baton Rouge in August 2016. Credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Homes flooded near Baton Rouge in August 2016.
Credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Coastal resiliency requires interdisciplinary research with stakeholder involvement to yield results and provide effective tools and products for conducting outreach. Continued advancement of computational models, with integration of precipitation, overland flow, river discharge, tides, wind-waves and surge processes, is essential. However, we must go further and develop a better understanding of the dynamic, interrelated processes of natural and human systems through advanced systems-based models to assess effects of climate change and relative sea-level rise.


“The best laid plans of mice & men …”

The idea of holding a symposium on coastal resiliency was first discussed by Peter Goodwin and Scott Hagen at the 2015 World Congress of International Association for Hydro-Environment Engineering and Research. In April 2016 the Louisiana Board of Regents authorized the LSU Center for Coastal Resiliency (CCR) and a kickoff symposium was set for Aug. 16, 2016.

A wealth of experience was assembled in rapid succession including:

  • Keynote speakers (including Rick Luettich, Lead Principal Investigator of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Coastal Resilience Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
  • A panel from U.S. federal agencies (including representatives from the U.S. Geological Survey, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, National Science Foundation) which included CRC PI Dr. Robert Twilley, Louisiana Sea Grant College Program
  • A regional panel (including representatives from the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, The Water Institute of the Gulf, LSU Coastal Studies Institute, LSU Coastal Sustainability Studio, USGS St. Petersburg Lab, Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center, LSU Center for River Studies, LSU Department of Environmental Sciences


“…often go awry

The flood of 2016 hit southern Louisiana with the equivalent of a “1,000-year rain” over a two-day period ending at 7 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 13. La. Gov. John Bel Edwards stated that the cost of the floods were an estimated $8.7 billion, becoming the second billion-dollar flood to affect Louisiana in 2016. In addition, more than 55,000 homes and 6,000 business were affected in some way by this catastrophic event.

Those that flew into the Baton Rouge and New Orleans airports on Sunday and Monday, Aug. 14-15, to participate in the Aug. 16 kickoff symposium witnessed the devastation from above seen in the above aerial photograph. Interstate 10, which connects New Orleans with Baton Rouge and the LSU campus, was flooded and the visitors flying into New Orleans had to cross the Mississippi river and arrive in Baton Rouge from the west. Nonetheless, all of the non-local symposium participants arrived on time. However, with the safety of the staff and attendees foremost in mind, an Aug. 15 event was cancelled.


Symposium transformed to workshop

In a matter of hours a meeting room was secured and the symposium was transformed into a workshop with all of the planned speakers (with the exception of three local leaders who attended directly to flood recovery duties) and 20 invited attendees.

In his keynote lecture Dr. Peter Goodwin of the Center for Ecohydraulics Research at the University of Idaho remarked on the unfortunate timing of the flooding and the kickoff symposium, “It is never the wrong time to focus on resilience.”

Dr. Goodwin incorporated examples from the San Francisco Bay-Delta in California to illustrate lessons learned on communication strategies with regards to balancing water supply reliability and ecosystem restoration. His focus was on how our research can inform policy and management.

The CRC’s Rick Luettich addressed the aspects of coastal resilience associated with managing risk: Quantifying it; Communicating it; and, Developing policy to reduce risk as opposed to enabling it to grow. He posed that given the nascent state of coastal resilience knowledge the time is right for investment in related research centers. In the developed world, Louisiana is ground zero for coastal resiliency.

Larry Weber reminded us that building coastal resilience often begins in the upper basin. In the case of the Mississippi River deltaic system, that beginning is thousands of river miles to the north. There he demonstrated how the Iowa Institute of Hydraulic Research – Hydroscience & Engineering and the Iowa Flood Center are building resilience to flooding and transport of harmful nutrients at the source.

The kickoff event and the Louisiana flood of 2016 reminded us that, in developing successful assessments and evaluation of coastal resiliency, we are and will be challenged by both hydrologic and hydraulic phenomena at the coastal land margin. Our efforts need to include better understanding of both coastal processes and improved integration of precipitation, overland flow, river discharge, tides, wind-waves and surge processes in our future models.

For more information on the LSU Center for Coastal Resiliency, see our website at