Amelia Pellegrin joined the Port of New Orleans in September 2013, as the Port’s first Environmental Services Manager, bringing more than 10 years of planning and environmental management experience. In her new role at the Port, Ms. Pellegrin is leading the development of an ISO 14001 compliant Environmental Management System and managing all environmental compliance and sustainability initiatives for the Port. She is also currently acting project manager for the Port’s new master planning project, and leading a revision of the Port’s permitting process. Ms. Pellegrin serves on the U.S. EPA Ports Work Group federal advisory committee, on the Board of the Traffic and Transportation Club of Greater New Orleans, and as Secretary for the American Association of Ports Authorities Environment Committee. She is a certified planner, with a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Emory University and a Masters in City Planning and Environmental Policy from MIT.
Ten years since the most devastating natural disaster in the United States’ recent history, the New Orleans regional economy has recovered and surpassed expectations in many sectors, including the rise of an innovative “water economy”. As distinct government entities with unique and separate jurisdictions, the City of New Orleans (the City) and the Port of New Orleans (the Port), have historically played separate roles in development and the management of water and environmental issues. In this new post-Katrina era of innovation in the face of coastal erosion and other threats, the City and the Port have an unprecedented opportunity to collaborate to build a more resilient economy, community and framework for adaptive planning.
New Orleans’ city resilience strategy, Resilient New Orleans (2015), was the first of its kind in the world—addressing broad goals of shaping the future city through a series of concrete and committed actions to be taken today. The strategy represents three overarching fundamental challenges to the city’s resilience–the environment is changing ; equity is critical ; and the future is uncertain.
The New Orleans resilience team took process guidance from 100 Resilient Cities—Pioneered by The Rockefeller Foundation, and by working with more than 350 stakeholders, including the Port, and honoring the many planning processes and outcomes of the past 10 years in New Orleans, crafted three comprehensive and active visions for the future city. “Adapt to Thrive” focuses on our changing environment and how our urban areas will change with it. “Connect to Opportunity” is founded upon the vision of New Orleans as an equitable city that is strategic about developing economic growth and opportunity. Finally, “Transform City Systems” represents the city’s long-term commitment to developing robust and reliable infrastructure and organizational systems—and the partnerships necessary to keep them resilient.
This hallmark strategy provides a foundation for further collaboration and crossover between the City and the Port in future land use master planning, green infrastructure adoption, economic and workforce development, and air quality mitigation. All of these issues and the potential solutions are now being explored jointly between the City and the Port, contributing to a stronger, more adaptive society and economy.
The Port and the City are in the process of updating their respective Master Plans for growth and development. These plan updates are coming at a critical time in the growth of the Port, the City and the regional economy. The Port is an economic powerhouse regionally and nationally - as the intermodal transport hub on the largest watershed in the nation, the Port of New Orleans’ cargo activities serve 60 percent of the consumers in the U.S. and generates $17 billion in spending in Louisiana alone as well as 160,000 direct and indirect jobs statewide. With concurrent master plan updates, the Port and the City will be incorporating Resilient New Orleans strategies and goals into their processes through intensive communication and cooperation.
New Orleans is both sustained and threatened by water. Our goal is to convert the efforts to mitigate the threat of flooding in our unique environment into economic opportunities for those who need them most. The Port has long been an economic engine for Greater New Orleans, and today the water management sector is one of the fastest growing economic drivers in the region. By cultivating this growth through our existing Pathways to Prosperity and Prosperity NOLA frameworks and partnering with the institutions that are both training and employing our “water workers,” our climate and environmental adaptation efforts can be a boon for New Orleanians and demonstrate leadership worldwide.
In New Orleans like most large port cities, not only does the Port exist along some of the most prime waterfront real estate, the Port is, in most locations, the gatekeeper to this sensitive environment. The Port can use this asset to educate and influence port operators, customers, and tenants to be better stewards of the environment we represent, such as through stormwater management practices or air quality improvements. When it comes to pollution prevention, port authorities may not directly regulate the environmental performance of goods movement, but they do have a critical role to play in convening, influencing, and educating those stakeholders and partners toward more sustainable growth and progress.
Further, with the Port of New Orleans as a partner, the City has the ability to comprehensively address water threats and opportunities. Wedged between the Mississippi River and an estuary of the Gulf of Mexico, New Orleans is also one of the rainiest cities in the United States. By collaborating on green infrastructure projects on higher ground near the river, where the Port of New Orleans is largely located, we have the ability to reduce runoff that would otherwise pool in the lower-lying neighborhoods of the city and protect the major national economic assets that make up our port system.
Aside from these opportunities in water management, the Port is also leading the charge to address air quality as a resiliency strategy. Through collaborating with the City and reframing air quality as an issue of community resilience and public health protection, the Port has been able to secure federal funding to begin emission reductions projects and to initiate dialogue with near-port neighborhoods about additional opportunities for improvement.
As we move forward into the next era for New Orleans and South Louisiana, and as our Port and City continue to work together to reshape our path forward, we are moving forward with greater synergy and opportunity because of the Port-City collaboration in resiliency strategies and growing the region’s water economy.