In the past 75 years, more than 2100 square miles of coastal Louisiana has been converted to open water by natural processes and human activity.Comprising nearly 1/3 of the state of Louisiana and home to 2/3 of Louisiana's residents, Louisiana's coastal zone has been battered by hurricanes and shaped to meet the demands of modern development.The loss of coastal wetlands in Louisiana is partly attributable to the natural processes of erosion and subsidence, typically associated with a deltaic landscape.But more significantly, human alteration of this landscape has accelerated much of Louisiana’s coastal land loss.
Levees built to facilitate and maintain navigation and flood protection along the Mississippi River have choked off the rich sediment that used to rebuild and restore wetlands.Additionally, thousands of miles of oil and gas pipelines and canals that provide essential energy to the nation, slice through Louisiana’s wetlands, hastening the erosion of this sediment starved landscape.
land is not only an important habitat for fish and wildlife, it
provides and indispensable storm buffer for communities, transportation
routes and energy infrastructure.
Wetlands and barrier islands form a natural buffer zone that absorbs storm surges and blunts the force of high winds.Scientists estimate that approximately 3 miles of healthy vegetated wetlands are capable of absorbing one foot of storm surge.As the barrier islands and wetlands erode, south Louisiana communities become increasingly exposed to the direct brunt of storms and hurricanes.If wetlands and barrier islands continue to erode as projected, more than 2 million people living in south Louisiana could be subjected to more frequent and severe flooding.
Wetlands and barrier islands protect billions of dollars worth of oil and gas infrastructure from wave and storm damage.This disappearing land is a key part of the nation's energy system.Nearly 25% of all the oil and gas consumed in America and 80% of the nation's offshore oil and gas travels through Louisiana's wetlands.As
wetlands and barrier islands erode, our oil and gas infrastructure will
become exposed to open water and increasingly susceptible storm damage.
barrier islands and wetland shorelines protect navigation channels,
anchorages and ports from winds, waves, storms and hurricanes.Louisiana's ports provide the nation with approximately 20% of the nation's foreign waterborne commerce.They contribute billions to local economies and provide Louisiana with thousands of jobs.Without
the protection of our rapidly eroding coastal wetlands and barrier
islands, 155 miles of waterways will be exposed to open water in 50
years and billions of taxpayer dollars will have to be spent on
increased dredging and maintenance costs.
wetlands provide critical habitat and food resources for some of our
nation's most productive recreational and commercial fisheries.The
abundance of our fisheries is generated by the millions of acres of
coastal marsh that is used as a nursery by young fish and shellfish.Wetlands
also serve as natural filters of sewage and other pollutants introduced
through drainage basins and the larger watershed region.As
our wetlands and estuarine marshes collapse, saltwater intrusion will
escalate salinity levels and disturb the delicate balance between fresh
and salt water that support the bountiful fisheries of Louisiana.
Despite these obstacles, it is still possible to restore Louisiana’s coastal landscape to a sustainable and productive state.But we must act now.Without immediate and decisive action, Louisiana will continue to lose land at an alarming rate. This is the single most preventable environmental crisis in America.