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Scenario Building Workshops: Adapting a Strategic Science Technique to Qualitative Purposes in the Amite River Basin

Authors: Craig Colten*, Louisiana State University, Ria Mukerji, Louisiana State University
Topics: Environment, Historical Geography
Keywords: coastal land loss, climate change, historical geography
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In 2010, a Department of the Interior working group developed a method to deploy scientific insights in the midst of the BP oil gusher to strategically address immediate research needs and policy options. As part of an interdisciplinary project addressing the inland encroachment of coastal influences in Louisiana, we utilized this scenario building workshop method to collect vital insights related to flood risk reduction in the wake of severe floods in the Amite River basin in 2016. The procedure enlisted local experts familiar with drainage, floodplain management, public works, planning, and local government to consider multiple options for mitigation and re-development. The method relies on a conversation that results in graphic representations of imagined futures. By charting various scenarios, the local experts identified possible cascading consequences, both good and bad, and in doing so, considered both desirable and undesirable outcomes. This humanistic process incorporates place-based knowledge, retains the full range of opinions without reducing them to statistical abstractions, and avoids the perils of resorting to models based on inappropriate or incomplete measures. Ultimately, it assists in the formulation of policies that steer away from options that can produce unintended consequences, identification of points of intervention in mal-adapted policies, and pathways towards feasible and desirable public programs. The two workshops completed in 2019 indicated local authorities, despite recent flooding experiences, sought to perpetuate mitigation strategies that contributed to the 2016 disaster.

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