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Deeper Look at the Ouachita River: How investment in Ouachita River infrastructure sustains human well-being in Ouachita Parish, Louisiana
Fulford, R., W. Michaud, J. Stubblefield, J. Harvey, AND L. Sharpe. Deeper Look at the Ouachita River: How investment in Ouachita River infrastructure sustains human well-being in Ouachita Parish, Louisiana. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, EPA/600/R-20/146, 2020.
This report describes ecosystem service and human well-being benefits of planned restoration and mitigation actions on the Ouachita river in Louisiana. This information was used to complete a comprehensive valuation of these planned actions, which will be used by officials of Ouachita parish and the cities of Monroe and West Monroe to inform and encourage restoration and mitigation actions on the river. This report also is a template for other similar valuation exercises in other communities and will be used as a planning tool for similar analyses planned by EPA Region 6 and EPA ORD.
Waterways across the country are facing reduced funding for river maintenance and bank stabilization. These issues affect the ecosystem services that these rivers provide to people, which can have a tremendous impact upon local towns dependent upon the resulting resource benefits. The Ouachita River in Louisiana provides significant economic, infrastructure, and natural benefits to the region and its cities; a region that has struggled economically for some time. Local officials had already seen impacts from the loss of ecosystem services such as clean water supply, recreation opportunities, fishing, etc., and are now concerned that reduced maintenance and current sediment issues will further impede these benefits. While the social and economic consequences of flooding are clearly understood, it would serve communities to better understand how the benefits they are receiving from ecosystem services are impacted by reduced river maintenance and bank stabilization and the resulting repetitive floods. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is using Structured Decision Making to provide decision support to the cities of Monroe and West Monroe, LA regarding flood mitigation and river maintenance strategies on the Ouachita River to improve stakeholder engagement, increase public understanding of flood control effects on important ecosystem services, and better integrate flood control options into the strategic planning processes of both cities. Four project types were examined: River navigation, Neighborhood stormwater, Levee maintenance, and development of Greenspace. All these project types have both positive and negative effects on ecosystem services and human well-being and these effects are largely mediated by the types of beneficiaries present in the community. The results of our ecosystem services analysis and the stakeholder input obtained for this report and its analysis support the following recommendations: • Use the findings of this report to integrate ecosystem service priorities and human well-being endpoints into the planning process as targets for resilience and recovery actions. • Consider trade-offs between economic, social, and environmental services present in major action categories in developing specific actions, such as stormwater projects, so as to maximize the well-being improvements. • Invest in critical infrastructure, such as levee maintenance, that supports ecosystem services of the Ouachita River and highlight these services to stakeholders. • Recognize the impact of direct service enhancements, such as the creation of greenspace, as a critical element of resilience and community identity and broaden the impact of actions on well-being. • Identify all river ecosystem services as vital community resources that require support and should be considered in measuring restoration success. These findings and recommendations should be viewed as a part of a larger discussion on the services to stakeholders from combinations of ecosystem services and built infrastructure intended to maximize human benefit from the Ouachita River. The combination of findings will allow for a comprehensive communication of services from the Ouachita River. This will greatly facilitate decision making where the goal is the collective well-being of all citizens and the sustainability of all services.