Is Hope on the Way?

by Kathryn Courtney

Since 1927, Louisiana constantly loses landmass, according to Chuck Perrodin, the public information coordinator at CWPPRA. This local issue threatens residents who live in Louisiana and the oil and gas industry, which is vital to the nation’s economy. Sea level rising and the coastal storms contribute to Louisiana’s coast line diminishing. Government officials implement restoration projects to save Louisiana coastline like the 2012 Costal Master Plan.

In order to see how Louisiana lost land, we must find out how Louisiana gained its landmass. The Mississippi River washed down sediments from the Rocky Mountains to create Louisiana. “Louisiana’s coast is like a layered cake. Multiple layers of sediment creates and builds the coast,” said Perrodin.

The Great Flood of 1927 changed America politically and geography. The government went ahead and leveed off the river to keep it from flooding. This devastated Louisiana’s coast because no more new layers of sediment could disperse and build Louisiana’s coastline. “The levees force all the sediment into the Gulf of Mexico preventing the land from rebuilding,” said David Susko, undergraduate of geology and New Orleans resident. With that being said if no levees existed, New Orleans would not either, said Susko.

For the past 25 years, Louisiana loses a football field of wetlands an hour. “I am not fully aware of the procedures people are taking to save Louisiana’s coast, but I am a concerned about this issue,” said Brain Razin, a New Orleans resident. Furthermore, Razin discussed that “the Louisianan culture that is contained in these southern Louisianan towns and parishes are slowly being swallowed by the Gulf.”

“Louisiana is uniquely important to the nation,” said Perrodin. Louisiana is the top producer of domestic oil, natural gas. Louisiana produces and transports one-third of the oil and gas. Also, Louisiana is the number one fishery in the lower 48 states. From energy, transporting cargo and seafood/wildlife Louisiana’s coast is vital to the nations sustainability. Restoring Louisiana’s coast is essential to support all of these industries.

These boats provide 16 percent of the U.S. fishery harvest. This image found on flickr.

These boats provide 16 percent of the U.S. fishery harvest. This image found on flickr.

Sea levels rising and landmass sinking affects Louisiana’s coast. The ice caps and the glaciers melting and thermal expansion, which water heats up and it expands, contributes to the sea level rising. This rise in sea level might cancel some of the projects in the Master Plan before the projects are even complete.

Coastal storms and hurricanes also affect the coastline and Louisiana residents. Hurricane Katrina devastated Louisiana by breaking down levees and killing 1,836 people. New Orleans was about 80 percent under water and some places were 20 feet deep in water because of Hurricane Katrina. When residents evacuated, they left their homes and jobs, resulting in some victim’s unemployment.

Hurricane Katrina impacted coastal areas like the Chandeleur Islands, uninhabited barrier islands. The Chandeleur Islands significantly lost landmass after Katrina. These islands create a buffer between the Gulf of Mexico and Louisiana from storms. Also, these buffer islands are vital to protect New Orleans from wind and storm surges. “I fear that in the near future there may not be enough of the barrier islands left to protect Louisiana from destruction of future hurricanes,” said Razin.

Chandeleur Islands before (left) and after (right) Hurricane Katrina. This image found on Wikimedia Commons.

Chandeleur Islands before (left) and after (right) Hurricane Katrina. This image found on Wikimedia Commons.

Losing these islands disturbs the wildlife’s natural habitat. Many birds migrate and fly south stopping at the Chandeleur islands. Also, the islands are a popular habitat for fish attracting fisherman across the nation expanding the fishery industry. Maintaining the islands is important for wildlife sustainability.

The government created the Coast Protection and Restoration Authority to have one central hub of communication about Louisiana’s coastline. The CPRA incorporated the Master Plan of 2012, which takes action to bring this crisis to a halt and even regain land in 30 years. “The 2012 Master Plan shows scientifically that if the projects in the Mater Plan are carried out, within 30 years Louisiana will have stopped losing land and will begin to gain land,” said Perrodin. If Perrodin’s conclusions are right about Louisiana’s coast, then in about 50 years Louisiana should have new land, therefore, eliminating this coastal crisis.

Louisiana’s dynamic coastline is crucial to the nation and to the wildlife. Planning for the future and taking action about the coastal land loss issue can prevent disasters from occurring. Perrodin believes the Master Plan is the saving grace for Louisiana’s coastline. Hopefully, he is right so we can sustain the economy, oil and gas industries, the wildlife habitats and Louisiana and its culture.

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