Photo provided by USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service -- This is one of three shoreline protection products being tested along Louisiana's coastline in the area of Vermilion Bay and Weeks Bay. State and federal coastal restoration agencies will test the effectiveness of these measures over the next three years in order to find alternatives to rock placement along the shore.

Happy festival season. Locals and tourist alike are traveling to New Orleans to experience the amazing food, music and culture we all know and love. But all of that is in danger if we don’t act to restore our quickly vanishing coast.

The fact is, we are losing coastal Louisiana. We’ve lost more 1,900 square miles of land since the 1930s, and we’ll lose more than 2,250 square miles over the next 50 years if we do nothing to restore our coast.

Coastal land loss affects all of us, even if you don’t live on the coast. It puts us at risk from storm surge and threatens our natural resources, culture, and economy. Without coastal restoration, economic damages in the New Orleans area could be as much as $1.7 billion in 50 years. These damages could lead to a loss of up to 9,000 jobs, $568 million in wages and $1.7 billion in output, according to a recent study by Louisiana State University.

What can we do to turn the tide on land loss and make our city, communities and businesses safer? How can we ensure the New Orleans we know and love will be here for generations to come? Thankfully, the state has a plan.

Louisiana’s 2017 Coastal Master Plan uses the latest data available, as well as public input, to chart a path for how we can best restore and protect our coast. It prioritizes projects so that we’re getting the best bang for our buck with every shovel of dirt lifted and every plug of marsh grass planted.

Through this Coastal Master Plan, Louisiana has already invested billions of dollars to rebuild barrier islands and marshes and to strengthen levees. The state recently presented its 2017 plan update to the Louisiana Legislature, where it is currently making its way toward a vote.

Now is the time move this plan forward with urgency. Not only does the Coastal Master Plan help protect our communities and businesses, but it will also grow Louisiana’s economy and create jobs. Studies have shown that the water management industry, which includes coastal restoration and protection, is one of the fastest growing job sectors in our state. The 2017 master plan indicates that close to 60,000 jobs will be supported with restoration investments. With the plan in place, Orleans Parish alone is estimated to reduce its annual economic damages by $200 million after 50 years.

All of us, including our elected officials, need to come together in support of the 2017 Coastal Master Plan and ensure it is adopted this spring. This is one of the most critical ways we can ensure a healthy and prosperous future for our region.

Ben Johnson

president and CEO, New Orleans Chamber of Commerce

New Orleans