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Scenario Planning: The Atchafalaya Basin
The graphics in this presentation demonstrate techniques for presenting scenarios to people interested in the future of a region (in this case, private developers interested in southern Louisiana). Since this presentation will not be presented orally—but rather put on a website for viewing—the format is different from many PowerPoint presentations. Usually, short phrases or labels organized by bullet points would be used, reducing clutter on the screen and allowing the presenter to expand upon each point. In this case, there is more text to explain each point thoroughly because there is no presenter to do so.
Graphics are used throughout the presentation to help the viewer visualize the concepts being presented. Most of the graphics consist of simple base maps overlaid by shapes and text that outline areas of interest. These graphics are not meant to show detailed information, but rather to outline broad concepts and translate scenarios from text to map. Each graphic is tailored to make a specific point that is mentioned on that particular slide; the cross-section drawing showing elevations of features in New Orleans is a good example of this. When it is important to see more detail on a map, USGS topography maps were used as base maps to help the user identify specific places, natural features, and infrastructure. This is particularly important in the three scenario maps for port development on the Atchafalaya River at the end of the presentation. Here, it is important to note existing settlement patterns, infrastructure, and terrain. But even in these maps, the shapes are not meant to show definite boundaries, but rather to suggest general locations. The only map that requires a greater level of detail is the overview map of the Old River Control Structure. In this graphic, the features of the entire complex are highlighted, allowing the viewer to see how the structure works. A USGS aerial photo (with added color) was used as the base map for this graphic.
For this presentation, data-intensive thematic maps were not necessary or desired to achieve the purpose of the presentation—to outline scenarios and provide examples of possible planning tasks. However, interested parties would likely conduct more in-depth research in the future that expands on the information presented here.
This presentation is an adaptation of a team project for the “Frameworks and Methods: Evaluation” class in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the Spring of 2006. The presentation demonstrates how creating scenarios can help planners think about future possibilities and the wide-ranging implications of certain events. Examining possible scenarios can also suggest ways to prepare for the future, make wiser investments, and mitigate damage from future disasters.
The goal of this presentation was to make recommendations to a fictional development firm that is contemplating where to invest resources for future development in southern Louisiana. The issues are examined in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita that devastated the region in August and September of 2005. With these events in mind, the strengths and vulnerabilities of the region are explored based on the actions of various important players, including nature itself. This analysis briefly examines the future of New Orleans and surrounding cities following Hurricane Katrina and the implications this has on population, housing, business, and port development throughout the region. The events of Galveston and Houston in 1900 serve as an example of what may occur.
The ultimate scenarios and recommendations of the report center around possibilities of future port development in the Atchafalaya Basin if the Old River Control Structure were to fail and send the waters of the Mississippi River down the Atchafalaya to the Gulf of Mexico. If this were to occur, the Atchafalaya River would become the dominant river in southern Louisiana and the current Mississippi passage would be little more than a saltwater estuary of the Gulf of Mexico, making transportation and large-scale development difficult in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. A private developer—among many other parties—would be interested to know where new ports and other development would be most likely to occur. This presentation outlines these possibilities and points the developer toward additional research and investment decisions.
An example of scenario planning based on the possibility of a change in course of the Mississippi River to the Atchafalaya Basin