In Louisiana we understand that coastal land loss significantly impacts our economy in addition to the environmental, cultural, and human toll it takes. The state of Louisiana has created an aggressive, 50-year, $50 billion Coastal Master Plan outlining a suite of projects which, over time, will build and sustain land to protect our coast, our citizens, and vital national interests. For Louisiana’s Master Plan, significant initial funding sources are identified, in the form of dedicated revenues from the Deepwater Horizon disaster, which flow to the state in annual increments over the next 15 years; and the federal Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, which flow to the state annually from off shore oil and gas leases. The investment of these revenues in accordance with the Master Plan will give Louisiana communities greater environmental and flood protection security and also new momentum in local economies.

Louisiana’s coast is home to more than half of the state’s population, and significant industries that provide jobs, taxes, and products that are intertwined with the entire state’s well-being and economic productivity. These coastal resources are vital to the national interest in the areas of energy, chemicals, international trade, fisheries, and national defense. For example, the oil and gas interests of the state account for nearly one-fifth of the nation's refining capacity and around 125,000 miles of pipelines and are dependent on the support that Louisiana’s coast and wetlands provide. Louisiana’s ports, which ship 60 percent of the nation’s grain and host the most tonnage in the Western Hemisphere, are also largely dependent on Louisiana’s coast.

Without implementation of the Coastal Master Plan, future land loss could cause direct and indirect damages to these assets and many others of up to $191 billion from one storm alone. Direct losses impacting structures and infrastructure due to land loss total $3.6 billion, and nationwide impacts to economic activity could total $7.6 billion each year. An even greater economic shock occurs as a result of that land loss when storms are able to reach further inland. In a future without implementation of the Coastal Master Plan it could cause an additional $138 billion in damages and $53 billion from disrupted economic activity.

Yet what is often lost in discussions of these risks is the economic opportunity presented by pursuing an aggressive program of coastal protection and restoration. Coastal Master Plan projects can not only lessen costly damage in the future, but also support a sizeable and growing economic sector of their own. A recent study conducted at LSU determined that the coastal program, a $630-$840-million-per-year undertaking, supports as many as 10,500 jobs each year. On top of jobs, coastal spending also provides up to $620 million in wages, and $1.5 billion in annual output.

The 2017 Coastal Master Plan is a continuation and expansion of the success we’ve already achieved under the past two versions of the Master Plan. In just the past seven years, $20 billion has been secured for protection and restoration in 20 parishes, 120 million cubic yards of dredged sediment has been used to benefit more than 36,000 acres of land, 282 miles of levee have been improved, and 60 miles of barrier islands and berms have been constructed or are now under construction. The newest version of the Master Plan is aiming for 800 square miles of land to be built or maintained and the reduction of expected annual damages by more than $150 billion in total within 50 years.

Protecting and restoring the delta and Chenier plain of one of the greatest rivers in the world is a noble pursuit on its own. Add to that the irreplaceable people, culture, resources, and economic assets that depend on that coastline, and support for Louisiana’s Coastal Master Plan becomes a true no-brainer. The economic risks and opportunities that flow from our coast connect us all. Louisiana’s coastal conversation is worth listening to, worth engaging in and worth our continued investment.

Johnny Bradberry is executive assistant to the governor for coastal activities and chairman of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.