Louisiana’s barrier islands, salt marshes and cypress forests are all natural lines of defense that protect communities from flooding. Every 3-4 miles of coastal wetlands reduces storm surge by 1 foot. But the state’s coast is disintegrating - losing a football field of wetlands each hour - due to oil and gas activities, levees and sea level rise. Louisiana’s coast faces the highest rate of land loss in the world.
Louisiana’s comprehensive coastal Master Plan is a science-based framework for restoring its coastal lines of defense. However, much of this $50 billion plan remains unfunded and much has not yet been implemented. Penalties and payments from the BP disaster will help fund the Master Plan, but Louisiana still falls short of sufficient restoration and protection.
Many of the Master Plan’s mega-projects, like levees and Mississippi River sediment diversions, will take years to build and many hurricane seasons will come and go before those projects will protect coastal communities. Immediate protection comes from “non-structural”, or flood risk programs such as elevating homes and flood-proofing structures. Building codes and land use planning, stormwater retention and management, and voluntary relocation are all options to help coastal communities become more resilient and manage risk.
As sea levels rise and coastal land loss continues, our state and federal governments must offer options to the communities facing these threats. Communities need resources for voluntary home buyouts and assistance with floodproofing and elevation. Those most at risk of flooding and with the highest need for economic assistance should be the first to receive resources.
Considering the challenges we face, we need Governor Edwards to do everything he can to protect our communities. While continuing to pursue wetlands restoration and other structural protections in the Master Plan, the state must also provide funding for efforts that will make people safer sooner, including floodproofing, elevation and voluntary buyouts. GRN will continue to work with coastal residents as well as our community and conservation partners to share knowledge about the coastal crisis and advocate to make sure the state provides coastal communities with the information, tools and resources that they need to survive.
Resettlement Zone Maps and accompanying Companion Document (2016).
Louisiana's Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast (2012), State of Louisiana.
The View for the Coast: Local perspectives and policy recommendations on flood risk reduction in south Louisiana (2014), Center for Planning Excellence.