reminding us what native peoples have never forgotten: that you cannot separate the land from the water, or the people from the land.”
– Lynn Noel, Voyages: Canada’s Heritage Rivers
Unlike other States, Louisiana is more than just a swatch of square miles, marked on a map by imaginary lines. Our home is best understood as a dynamic meeting of land and water, defined more by its constantly changing coastline than by any arbitrary borders. From the marshy merger of sea and shore comes 70% of the nation’s harvest of oysters and other seafood. The Mississippi River, which formed much of Louisiana, is the spine of commerce connecting us with America between the Rockies and the Appalachians. Water from the Mississippi is pumped into the industries that line its banks for manufacturing of products that, in turn, are shipped out over the same river waters to markets around the world.
More than $50 million has been committed by partners, including the State of Louisiana, for developing the first phase of what will be an international destination for leading minds in science, engineering and other specialties. Ultimately, The Water Campus will attract thousands of people, all working together in an effort to understand and better manage the complex relationship between water, land, and people around the world – beginning here at home in Louisiana.
Louisiana is washing away. Our wetlands are disappearing at the perilous rate of 24 square miles per year – equal to a football field every 38 minutes. Louisiana’s extraordinarily productive stretch of coastland is in crisis, and the potential costs for our country defy calculation.
The Water Campus is a world-class collaborative research campus devoted to the study of coastal restoration and sustainability. When fully complete, The Water Campus will have over 1.6 million square feet of commercial space.
The Water Campus is being developed in partnership with Louisiana and East Baton Rouge Parish governments, the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, Louisiana universities, and nonprofits.
Across the levee is the river. Down the street in one direction is LSU; in the other, downtown. And within the campus are parks, fountains, conference rooms, and education facilities.
With dedicated support from all levels of government, private sector and institutional organizations, The Water Campus is guided by strong and experienced leadership. The project is spearheaded by The Baton Rouge Area Foundation and Commercial Properties Realty Trust which has extensive development, redevelopment and project management experience.
BATON ROUGE, La. — Today, Governor Bobby Jindal and President and CEO Charles “Chip” Groat of The Water Institute of the Gulf joined Baton Rouge Mayor-President Kip Holden, President and CEO John Davies of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, and LSU President F. King Alexander in breaking ground for the construction of the $22.4 million Water Institute of the Gulf Research and Conference Center along the Mississippi River, between downtown Baton Rouge and LSU.
To be built at the site of Baton Rouge’s former municipal dock, the elevated three-story structure will extend over the river, providing a plaza surrounding the structure for unprecedented public viewing of the Mississippi River beyond the levee. The centerpiece of the structure will be The Water Institute of the Gulf, which will occupy offices on the first and second floors of the 34,000-square-foot structure. On the third floor, a major conference space will play host to academic conventions, research conferences and public meetings and hearings, all focused on the preservation of Louisiana’s coast, and related efforts worldwide. Applied research projects of the 4-year-old Water Institute of the Gulf are taking place on a global scale and will inform major public policy decisions and public works projects in Louisiana, along the Gulf Coast and around the world.
The Water Institute headquarters joins two other facilities under construction nearby – the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority headquarters and the LSU Center for River Studies – as anchors of the 35-acre Water Campus that eventually will be home to an estimated 1.2 million square feet of commercial office, retail, restaurant, hospitality and residential space, along with an estimated 4,000 direct and indirect jobs between Nicholson Drive and the river.
Governor Jindal said, “Here at the foot of the Interstate 10 bridge on the Mississippi River, where millions of drivers pass each year, we are developing a world-class campus of water management research, development and project activity. This new Water Institute of the Gulf headquarters will serve as the centerpiece of our efforts to glean innovative new applications that can be put to work in the protection and restoration of Louisiana’s coastline. We will not only be providing invaluable assistance to our state, but we will become a magnet for water management research worldwide and we will lay the foundation, over the next two decades, for as many as 45,000 new direct and indirect jobs in the water management sector in our state. We’re proud that the collaboration of many partners has made this day possible, and that Louisiana will accomplish great environmental and economic advances because of the water management expertise being developed in our capital city.”
Construction of the Water Institute headquarters will include vehicular and pedestrian pathways connecting the river facility to River Road and to LSU and downtown Baton Rouge via the existing Mississippi River levee trail. The design of the state-funded facility encourages collaboration of water management professionals across the Water Campus while also enabling the public to see and feel the river in a way they’ve never experienced before.
“Today is an exciting day for Louisiana and for our team at The Water Institute of the Gulf,” Groat said. “We believe our work is important because throughout the world, life happens at the water’s edge. We strive to conduct world-class applied research focused on sustaining the vitality of the world’s great coasts and deltas. Our roots are in Louisiana’s great delta and coast. We will be proud to carry out our mission from this iconic building on the edge of the mighty Mississippi. It’s a fitting home for the institute and we will work tirelessly to be a worthy tenant.”
Construction will be completed in the summer of 2017, when the Water Institute will move from its current office in downtown Baton Rouge to the new headquarters. Now employing 45 research scientists, engineers and technologists, the Water Institute will employ an estimated 55 people at the time of its 2017 move and plans to grow to more than 80 employees in the five years following the move.
“I’ve worked with governors, mayors and legislators up and down the Mississippi River to sustain our river and coast, and what we have assembled on the Water Campus in Baton Rouge is unparalleled,” Mayor-President Melvin L. “Kip” Holden said. “The Water Institute of the Gulf is the next step in Louisiana’s global leadership in coastal science and research, and there is much more to come.”
“We are excited to be a part of the Water Institute, an international research center on coastal issues housed right here in Baton Rouge,” said LSU President F. King Alexander. “Our LSU faculty and students look forward to working with researchers from around the world who come to the Water Institute to study and help solve the world’s growing coastal problems.”
“The building will bring us back to where our city began,” said President and CEO John Davies of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation. “And the scientists who work within it will offer solutions for a hopeful future, not only for the people living on our coast but also for the billions of people who live on or near water around the world.”
The Water Institute of the Gulf is the Center of Excellence and a not-for-profit, independent research and technical services resource for resilient coasts and sustainable water systems worldwide. The work of the Institute helps ensure livable communities and a thriving economy and environment. For more information, visit TheWaterInstitute.org.