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In debates surrounding coastal restoration projects, the word “community” is heard frequently. Coastal restoration projects have the potential to affect a wide range of communities, both those which are place-based as well as communities of practice that are not geographically bound. However, the lack of a single, accepted definition of community can lead to faulty assumptions about who is being represented in policy debates which can undermine efforts to build consensus and support for coastal restoration efforts. This Article presents a case study of community conflicts and public participation surrounding a large, controversial coastal restoration project in Louisiana—the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion. The case study contrasting the special consideration granted fishing communities under federal law with the more common approach to public participation in federal decision-making—broad public notice and comment opportunities without any particular community focus. Federal fishery managers are mandated to take into consideration impacts to “fishing communities” when regulating fisheries, but there is little consensus on how that term is defined. Without consistent definitions and inclusion criteria, it is difficult to identify and assess impacts to fishing communities. This case study explores the differences between these two engagement approaches. Although the environmental review process for large coastal restoration projects does not implicate the fishing community analysis mandated by federal law, it could be a model for how to identify and mitigate impacts on affected communities in the future.

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