Urban water issues in New Orleans (2001-2)
I spent a year at the University of New Orleans Coastal Research Lab (now absorbed into the Pontchartrain Institute for Environmental Sciences) as a Research Associate working on coastal and urban water issues around Lake Pontchartrain and the Gulf of Mexico (particularly the Chandeleur Islands) with the late Dr. Shea Penland. Much of the time was spent collecting extant research into a database, and analyzing the results of stakeholder meetings held before my arrival. The research led to some presentations at local and national conferences, but reflecting on the challenges of the social and governance context proved more transformative for me, inspiring me to start a PhD. That reflection resulted in a conference presentation in the ‘metropolitan deltas’ special session at the 2004 IALE World Congress in Darwin, Australia, and a chapter in the volume that resulted (Sherren, 2004). The chapter was expanded for inclusion in a collection for the Dutch Government’s Institute for Inland Water Management and Wastewater Treatment, as they planned their own process of ‘finding space for water’ in the face of increased sea levels and storm surges. My time in pre-Katrina New Orleans has resonated through the rest of my career, driving me toward understanding the social and cultural aspects of land use decisions, rather than being satisfied by what can easily be mapped: knowing the ‘right’ answer bio-physically is only a small part of the problem-solving.
Sherren, K. 2004. Overconsultation breeds contempt: Lessons in participatory watershed planning from the restoration of the Mississippi Delta, Louisiana, USA. in Planning Metropolitan Landscapes – Demands, Approaches, Solutions, G. Tress, B. Tress, B. Harms, P. Smeets & A. van der Valk (Eds), DELTA Series 4, Wageningen University, Netherlands.
Daisy Berbert (now Pate) was an upper-year BSc Geophysics student who helped me with developing and populating the database. She is now a Registered Professional Geologist in Louisiana.