A recently released study by a respected Tulane scientist has brought coastal Louisiana and its rapidly receding coastline back into the national spotlight. We welcome the opportunity to discuss how this research aligns with our coastal master plan, and we view this renewed attention as an opportunity and a call to action to support the mission of Louisiana’s coastal program.
But let us be frank — this study and the subsequent media coverage surrounding it serve to highlight what the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority and others have been saying all along: If we do nothing, we will lose coastal Louisiana.
Some would say this means we should pack up and move to Arkansas. We have a better idea. It’s known as the Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast, and we invite you to join us in our fight to implement it in its entirety, because our coast and the people who call South Louisiana home will never be a lost cause.
Doing nothing has never been acceptable to us, the women and men of CPRA, nor the citizens of this state. This new study confirms that the types of projects we are building, designing, and planning are the best ways to offset coastal land loss for decades and centuries to come. Further, the study validates and emphasizes our belief in innovative solutions to combat our land loss crisis, including the proposed sediment diversion projects that will build and sustain hundreds of thousands of acres of coastal wetlands by reconnecting the Mississippi River and restoring the natural processes that built our deltas in the first place.
Our coastal master plan considers sea level rise rates and the survival of marsh vegetation, both of which are consistent with this study. It has been the driving force that has enabled CPRA to secure over $21 billion to protect and restore our coast and its communities, build 327 miles of levees, dredge over 157 million cubic yards of sediment to build marshes, ridges, and 60 miles of barrier islands that have benefited nearly 48,000 acres of our coastal wetlands. This demonstrates tremendous progress in our fight to save coastal Louisiana, its communities, and our way of life.
However, there is much more work to be done. Our coastal master plan does not claim that all of Louisiana’s coastal wetlands can be preserved in the future, and this view is consistent with the recent study. But we are taking concerted action to ensure that the qualities and characteristics that make our coast so valuable are preserved for generations to come. Through the implementation of the coastal master plan, we can build or maintain 800 square miles of coastal wetlands and reduce expected annual damages by $150 billion over the next fifty years.
In the near future, Gov. John Bel Edwards will launch a Climate Initiatives Task Force that will further investigate measures we can take to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions driving global sea level rise.
Louisiana’s coast is dynamic. With or without action, it will continue to change in the coming decades. If we wish to stay here, we must continue to invest in its restoration, work to make our communities more resilient, and transparently provide information about risk to individuals and businesses so that they can make informed decisions.
This year CPRA will have more projects under construction than ever before. We are building the largest barrier island project and the largest marsh creation and ridge restoration projects in our history. We have plans to restore 14,000 acres of our coast through dredging. We are also making major investments in structural protection that will substantially decrease flood risk in many of our communities.
Our optimism is not based on desire alone, but on the best available science and an implementation record that gives us hope for the future.
We will never give up, and neither should the people of Louisiana.
Chip Kline is chairman of Louisiana's Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. Bren Haase is the CPRA's executive director.