AMSTERDAM – Today’s agenda for Gov. John Bel Edwards and a group of Louisiana business and government leaders includes a meeting with Special Envoy for International Water Affairs for the Kingdom of the Netherlands Henk Ovink, as well as a tour of major water infrastructure sites and research facilities around the country in an effort to forge economic and resilience partnerships with their Dutch counterparts. The visit includes:
- The Noorwaard Polder, among the key sites of the country’s large-scale flood control project, “Room for the River.”
- Kinderdijk, a UNESCO world heritage site whose 19 windmills have historical significance in the development of water management and pumping stations.
- Delft, home of the Deltares water research institute featuring the largest wave-testing facility in the world.
“The Netherlands has been an invaluable partner to Louisiana in our quest to develop cutting-edge solutions to the state’s complex flood control challenges,” Gov. Edwards said. “Our ongoing exchange of water management best practices is a model for the kind of international collaboration that is required to confront an environmental crisis of this magnitude. On behalf of the entire state, I thank Special Water Envoy Ovink for the invitation to continue the exchange of ideas and experiences to the historic water challenges we both face.”
Ambassador Henk Ovink was appointed by the Cabinet of the Netherlands as the world’s first national cabinet-level water management leader in 2015. As the Ambassador for Water, he is responsible for advocating water awareness around the world and building coalitions among governments, businesses and non-profits to develop creative solutions to the world’s pressing water needs. He visited Louisiana in 2019 to workshop best practices with resilience leaders and investors in the state’s burgeoning water industry sector.
“This important and inspiring visit with Governor John Bel Edwards and the Louisiana delegation comes at a critical time,” Ovink said. “Working together on water starts with understanding and valuing water better. Louisiana and the Netherlands share the same challenges and opportunities, and importantly have a shared ambition to step up to the water, climate and sustainability needs. Forging coalitions like ours can inspire the world to scale up and replicate the needed actions. I applaud the governor and his team for their leadership and look forward to scaling our collaboration across the world.”
Monday’s fact-finding mission follows meetings on Sunday with US Consul General Kate Nanavatty; Dr. Bregje Van Wesenbeeck, scientific director of Deltares and an international expert in nature-based solutions to flood risk reduction; and Dr. Lauren Alexander Augustine, executive director of the National Academies of Science Gulf Research Program, where she oversees management of $500 million in settlement funds from the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
Wesenbeeck and Augustine briefed the governor on a proposed collaboration between state, federal and local partners to develop a national Center for Equitable Climate Resilience in Louisiana. They also discussed the possible development of a “Blue Carbon” or “Coastal Carbon” market, which would leverage the ability of aquatic and wetland plants to capture and store carbon to generate greenhouse gas credits and incentivize investment in Louisiana wetlands restoration.
The engagement of leaders from two countries on the front lines of climate change comes as the Netherlands prepares to co-host the UN 2023 Water Conference. That March 23-24 event will bring world leaders together at the United Nations in New York City to develop a unified action plan for what organizers call “a water secure world for all.
“From a water resources, flood, and climate perspective, this kind of engagement offers exciting opportunities to strengthen our long-standing collaboration with partners in the Netherlands over the challenges that both Louisiana residents and the Dutch face,” said The Water Institute of the Gulf President and CEO Justin Ehrenwerth, who hosted Sunday’s meeting with Van Wesenbeeck. “The partnerships that grow from these kinds of face-to-face meetings are invaluable as we continue to develop innovative solutions to our most pressing water challenges.”
As part of their best practices exchange, Gov. Edwards and members of the delegation updated their Dutch hosts on a number of groundbreaking projects underway in Louisiana.
Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Chairman Chip Kline relayed the progress being made in restoring and protecting coastal Louisiana with the completion of multiple restoration projects, sediment diversions and flood protection investments. Ehrenwerth and Baton Rouge Area Foundation CEO Chris Meyer discussed the Louisiana Watershed Initiative and continued success of the Baton Rouge Water Campus, the country’s first major center dedicated to the study of coastal restoration and sustainability. And Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Don Pierson described how higher education partnerships are building a robust water management workforce through initiatives like the Coastal Technical Assistance Center (CTAC) on the campus of Nicholls State University, which connects Louisiana companies to coastal restoration project contracts.