Planning for a resilient future means that Lafourche Parish grows in ways that both retains existing residents and attracts new residents. In order to build a prosperous future for the Parish, current land uses and future land use needs must be identified and planned for. This plan points to areas of the Parish that are: safe and secure; areas to preserve for recreational use by hunters, fishers, birders, and boaters; areas in need of greater support for industry and business; areas to prioritize for the preservation of agriculture; and areas where coastal hazards, land loss and flooding is most likely to occur. By considering these land uses and the parish can strategically plan for a resilient Lafourche.
The best places for the creation of new jobs and new housing will be in and near existing employment and city centers. The infrastructure is these areas has the capacity for growth and the property is more protected from current and future coastal hazards. Conservation of natural areas and marshes is key for the continued health of the parish and for increased storm buffering capacity.
RESILIENCY AND HAZARD MITIGATION
Lafourche Parish is built along a historic Mississippi River channel, which is now the much smaller Bayou Lafourche. The bayou’s only consistent source of fresh surface water is located where it forks south away from the current Mississippi River channel with the aid of a small pump. Although the water no longer provides any river sediment to replenish the Parish’s wetlands, it is still critical as the primary source of drinking water. Most of the settlement that occurred until the second half of the twentieth century was located on high ground, created by the sediment deposits left during the seasonal flooding of the river and bayou. Seasonal flooding created the characteristic topography and soil composition of the delta where more stable clay soils settle near the river and bayou channels and then transition into finer-grained silts and highly organic mucks as the ground moves down and further away. This natural process has created the Parish’s current development patterns.
CULTURE AND RECREATION
There are many cultural and recreational assets to capitalize on in Lafourche. These range from neighborhood parks and playing fields, to opportunities for viewing wildlife and unique local Cajun and Houma Indian cultural and historical traditions. Knowing exactly what those assets are and what condition they are in will be key to planning for a more connected, more accessible and high-quality open space system. Keys to enhancing this system will include maintaining and enhancing existing parks and natural areas, as well as building new pedestrian and bike trails, expanding access to boat launches and the beach front, identifying cultural amenities and tying them to other assets, and restoring hydrologic function to surrounding wetlands.
Based on projections for demographic shifts and changing housing preferences in the Parish, it is evident that expanded housing options are needed in order to meet future housing demand in Lafourche. There are promising market opportunities for development of additional rental housing, and for new housing types such as townhomes; compact, single-family housing; and a mix of high-end and affordable apartments.
The economy of Lafourche, like much of southern Louisiana is stimulated by the industry in the Gulf of Mexico. Roads and rail were designed to bring these products north via train. Roadways in Thibodaux, the largest city within the Parish, connect to two large cities outside of the Parish - Houma and New Orleans. Investment and development patterns have continued with emphasis along Bayou Lafourche. During the Plan’s public engagement efforts, people were asked to express their desires for the future of development within the Parish. Their feedback showed that a high priority should be placed on new design standards and other modes of transportation in the future. The following three transportation goals have been established and serve as a focal point for key strategies.
One of the Parish’s top priorities is maintaining infrastructure and making improvements to levees, roads, highways, bridges, pump stations, and drainage. This reflects a tremendous effort to protect residents’ assets from natural hazards and to keep up with fresh water demands from new residents and businesses. Just as water provides the economic sustenance and cultural heritage in Lafourche Parish, water infrastructure is foundational to the Parish’s safety and resilience. Bayou Lafourche is the primary source of potable water for the communities along the Bayou, making the quality of the Bayou’s water essential for the health, safety and quality of life in Lafourche. The fresh water demands of the residents, businesses and gulf ecosystems must be balanced to achieve a sustainable future for the region. This chapter focuses on critical infrastructure in regard to drainage, sanitary sewerage, potable water, fiber/telecommunications, electricity and gas, solid waste, recycling, and stormwater management.
Lafourche’s economic assets include overall stronger employment than the region as a whole and major competitive advantages in certain sectors such as transportation, oil and gas support, tourism, and fisheries. Challenges for sustainable growth include a shrinking workforce (the phenomenon that over half of most medium-skilled workers connected to the oil and port industries will retire in the next several years has been aptly dubbed “the great crew change”), and the need to attract and retain young and skilled workers, as well as a strong need for economic diversification.
The Parish includes the city of Thibodaux and the towns of Lockport and Golden Meadow. There are a number of census-designated communities in the parish, including Raceland, Larose, Mathews, Gheens, and Cut Off. In order to maximize public services and facilities, it is necessary to coordinate services such as transportation, utilities, police protection, and the school system, between the Parish and municipalities and communities. In addition, intragovernmental coordination of policies, procedures and information within Parish government departments prevents duplication of services and improves opportunities to address health, safety and quality of life issues for all citizens. Coordinating, monitoring and promoting public services, health and safety requires commitment at all levels of local government. The Parish must be involved in the coordination of health and human services with state and federal agencies to ensure resources are available to meet the needs of all citizens. Preservation or enhancement of services, particularly in historically underserved areas, is a priority.