Louisiana has narrowed its worldwide search for help in solving its coastal crisis to three teams, each loaded with local, national and international experts.

The Changing Course Competition Leadership Team announced three finalists Monday from 21 teams seeking a $400,000 grant. The winner will offer the state ideas it may have missed in creating its Master Plan for the Coast 2012, a 50-year, $50-billion plan to prevent parts of the coast from sinking into the Gulf of Mexico.

The three finalists are headed by Moffat & Nichol, an engineering firm; H3 Studio, an architectural and landscape design studio; and Baird and Associates, an engineering firm. The teams include members from universities in Louisiana and around the country.

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The competition is not meant to supplant the Master Plan, but to look for fresh perspectives from world-renowned experts on how to maintain commerce on the lower Mississippi River and at the same time rebuild rapidly eroding wetlands and maintain communities. There is no commitment to use the winning designs.

In fact, Steve Cochran of the Environmental Defense Fund, who sits on the 17-member competition leadership team, said finalists have yet to submit specific ideas on what they would do on the lower river.

“The first part of the process was for the teams to tell us how they would draw together national, world and local expertise,” he said. “We wanted to know how they would think about the breadth of the challenges facing lower river projects, from the sociology as well as engineering aspects.”

The teams’ specific plans will be developed over the next five to six months, Cochran said. During that time they will meet with “everybody who has a stake in the lower river in some form or function.”

Bob Marshall

From 2013 to 2017, Bob Marshall covered environmental issues for The Lens, with a special focus on coastal restoration and wetlands. While at The Times-Picayune, his work chronicling the people, stories...