On Tuesday, President Donald Trump will be visiting Hackberry to highlight the area’s growing energy economy and associated infrastructure. There is talk in Washington of pursuing new infrastructure funding. When we think of coastal infrastructure we tend to think of gray, hard, structures — seawalls, levees, breakwaters and the like. However, there is another type of infrastructure that is just as important in protecting us and providing benefits to energy facilities on the coast — natural or “green” infrastructure. Features such as barrier islands, dunes and oyster reefs provide similar flood risk management benefits as gray infrastructure while providing environmental benefits too, such as habitat for fish and wildlife and recreational opportunities. As we celebrate energy growth on the coast, we must use natural infrastructure to protect these investments.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which will likely receive a substantial amount of money from an infrastructure bill, is not unfamiliar with natural infrastructure. They have spent years rebuilding Mississippi’s barrier islands and they are considering using dunes instead of levees to protect the Houston-Galveston region from storms. In Louisiana they use dredged material, taken from navigation channels, to rebuild marshes along the coast. The Corps’ motto is ESSAYONS, which means “Let us Try.” If Congress will let the Corps try, the Corps can rebuild our coast using natural infrastructure as a priority, complementing hard infrastructure.
There is huge potential for using natural infrastructure in Southwest Louisiana where President Trump is visiting. The Louisiana Coastal Master Plan has several shoreline protection, marsh creation, and hydrological restoration projects located in Cameron Parish, including its largest project, the Calcasieu Ship Channel Salinity Control Measures, which will control saltwater intrusion and reduce the loss of coastal wetlands and marshes in the region. These projects not only provide wildlife habitat, but they also protect major economic resources, including LNG facilities, from the effects of storm surge and coastal land loss. These projects are complementary, not conflicting, to other, more traditional infrastructure projects like roads and bridges.
With coastal land loss threatening our state and sea level rise affecting the nation, we must build infrastructure projects that have dual environmental and economic benefits.
Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana