Pilot builds tribal climate and disaster resilience in Louisiana

NOAA, the Pointe-au-Chien Indian Tribe (PACIT) and Louisiana Sea Grant are collaborating to launch a new pilot project that will build relationships and build community resilience to natural disasters and the impacts of climate change.

The Building Relationships and Community Resilience with the Pointe-au-Chien Indian Tribe of Southeast Louisiana pilot will support cultural and community resilience in a part of the country where land is being rapidly lost to water. PACIT faces constant climate-related hazards such as coastal erosion, subsidence, rising water levels and saltwater intrusion into its communities, as well as the acute effects of hurricanes. Collectively, these impacts affect the tribe’s ability to continue traditional ways of life through farming, fishing, and hunting. The effects are also affecting where people live and threatening culturally sensitive areas. The pilot received a $70,000 NOAA investment in fiscal 2022, managed by Louisiana Sea Grant.

“The experiences and perspectives of tribal partners must be central to how we build climate-ready and resilient communities,” said Assistant Secretary of Commerce Don Graves. “Adapting NOAA’s climate data and services to the needs of PACIT can help improve climate resilience in Louisiana and beyond.”

The project has three main goals:

  • Develop and strengthen personal and community connections to advance PACIT’s resilience and adaptation efforts to coastal hazards. This can also serve as a model for how NOAA and other similar coastal tribes and communities can build connections.
  • Assess the priority climate and environmental conditions affecting PACIT and identify ways tailored NOAA information and resources can inform PACIT’s understanding of those conditions.
  • Developing ways to address specific challenges where NOAA’s information, products and services can improve community resilience and PACIT’s ability to adapt to climate-related hazards.

“We have adapted to the changing environment for decades, but the country’s changes have intensified in recent decades,” said Vice Chairman Donald Dardar of the Pointe-au-Chien Indian Tribe. “This project is important to support our adaptation and resilience efforts as we work to preserve our cultural heritage and way of life for future generations. We welcome the opportunity to participate in discussions that value our traditional knowledge and will be used to create specific resources tailored to our tribal community.”

The pilot was developed in response to feedback received during a 2021 climate and justice roundtable focused on flooding and flooding in Louisiana. The roundtable came shortly after Hurricane Ida devastated PACIT and the surrounding communities. It was an opportunity for NOAA leadership to hear firsthand from communities, local organizations, colleges and state agency partners about vulnerabilities related to extreme weather conditions and the compounding impact of disasters in Louisiana, especially for smaller communities.

“As these projects get underway, I have been pleased to see how effective strategies can be shared by communities of practice,” said NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad, Ph.D. “We get further when we work together, and this collaboration serves as a model for how to build meaningful connections that put climate information and data in the hands of those who need it to plan for the future.”

More broadly, this pilot project can help NOAA find ways to better connect with other tribal or small rural coastal communities and help them address the impacts of climate change. The project can also serve as a roadmap to help communities access relevant NOAA climate data and connect with other federal agencies with key climate and disaster response services. The work of this pilot project will be conducted in close coordination with a project between Louisiana Sea Grant and PACIT, funded by the Environmental Protection Agency, to develop a Tribal Coastal Resilience Index (T-CRI), which is a self-assessment tool that can be leveraged with localized applications of NOAA data, tools and services to give tribal communities a clear picture of their own resilience strengths and needs, and informational resources to help users take the next steps to improve their climate resilience and adaptation efforts.

“I’m excited for this opportunity to connect the Tribe with NOAA’s climate data, tools and services to support their efforts to develop a comprehensive community-based strategy to become more resilient to future storms and other coastal hazards,” said Matthew Bethel , Louisiana Sea Grant Associate Director of Research. “This project leverages ongoing collaborative efforts with PACIT, such as the development of the T-CRI, and is part of Louisiana Sea Grant’s continued partnership with NOAA on critical work to address priorities for climate change adaptation and coastal community resilience across the region.”

This pilot project builds on NOAA’s commitment to sustainable engagement in underserved communities and is part of an investment in seven pilot projects being conducted across the country. These pilot projects each take a unique, place-based approach to help vulnerable communities better understand, prepare for, and respond to climate change.

Learn about NOAA’s other pilot projects and ongoing environmental justice efforts.

Read more at NOAA