The vast engineering project that will be necessary to restore Louisiana’s eroding coastline is based on the seemingly simple premise of building diversion canals or using other resources to mimic Mother Nature’s long-term processes.
That is underlined by the recent report of the National Wetlands Center, which had good news and bad news.
The bad news is that Louisiana has lost 1,883 square miles of coastline since 1932, the U.S. Geological Survey agency said.
The good news is that some parts of the coast - one is where the Mississippi River continues to carry its sediments - gained a little ground. “This is not just a story about land loss, but it’s also about land gain,” said Phil Turnipseed, of the National Wetlands Center in Lafayette.
The slower rate of loss in the last quarter-century might have to do with the fact that the easiest marsh to lose is gone, and the small recoveries of marsh might have to do with a rebound from hurricanes Gustav and Ike in 2008. Neither, though, is particularly good news for the long term.
The loss of wetlands is a devastating national problem. However difficult the hydrological engineering involved, the nation should more effectively respond to this.
As pointed out by Garrett Graves, Gov. Bobby Jindal’s chairman of the state’s coastal authority, there is not a lot of good news in the loss of miles and miles of marsh and coastal islands.
“While there has been some short-term progress, Louisiana’s coastal crisis and the urgency of the situation is no less than before,” Graves said.
He’s right, and it’s an important issue for the nation as well as for Louisiana.