The Louisiana Coast: Last Call

Rising sea levels threaten communities on every American coastline, but none more so than Louisiana’s Gulf Coast, where every hour a football field’s worth of marsh disappears.

As the magnitude of global sea level rise has become better understood, coastal land loss has become an urgent concern, with scientists and public officials pondering what land can be protected or rebuilt that the rising Gulf will not wash away. We will hear from leading scientists, historians, public officials, fishermen and other stakeholders in the battle to save as much of the Southeast Louisiana coast as possible.

Support for The Louisiana Coast: Last Call comes from the Greater New Orleans Foundation, an organization that addresses the challenges facing people who live and work in the coastal communities of Southeast Louisiana.

Find more of our coverage of the environmental issues facing our region.

Water Institute of the Gulf

An email sent recently to hundreds of Northshore inboxes contained a startling attachment. It was a picture of south Louisiana 80 years from now. The land loss projection map showed what could happen if the coastal erosion problem goes unchecked — the Northshore of Lake Pontchartrain will be the new Grand Isle.

Dr. Chip Groat, President and CEO of the Water Institute of the Gulf, explains that his organization is dedicated to making sure that doesn’t happen.

NASA

Without a doubt, the coast of Louisiana is disappearing at an alarming rate. Something has to be done — and quickly — to stop our shorelines from sinking into the Gulf. But are diversions the answer? More and more scientists are now looking at the Mississippi River not as a solution, but as part of the problem.

Why are some of the highest erosion rates occurring where the river has the most influence on the marsh?

State plans to restore the coastline are trying to mimic the way the Mississippi built the coast. Thousands of years ago the river dumped sediment from the plains upriver into the marsh. But some fishermen are worried the plans will displace the saltwater fish they catch to make a living.

Fishermen voiced their opposition at a community meeting in St. Bernard Monday.

America's Wetland Foundation

Restoring the Gulf Coast is also a critical business issue, as R. King Milling, chairman of the governor’s Advisory Commission on Coastal Protection and Restoration and the former president of Whitney Bank, explains.

TRANSCRIPT:

Bob Marshall: What is your association with coastal issues in Louisiana?

On May 22 at Loyola University, The Lens’ Bob Marshall moderated a discussion among experts about the condition of the Louisiana coast and what can be done to restore it.

Appearing on the panel:

The Louisiana Coast: Last Call — Getting Involved

Jun 10, 2013
Tulane University

After interviewing nearly 20 people involved in the coastal restoration process and program — from scientists and engineers, to public officials leading agencies — one of the surprising findings was the consensus among them that people living inside these levees — who live in the most threatened spot in North America due to sea level rise, subsidence and coastal land loss — don’t seem to be fully engaged or aware of just how precarious their situation is.

So, is this common?

Jason Saul / WWNO

If there is one underlying justification for Louisiana’s $50 billion Master Plan for coastal restoration, it’s this: We actually have a chance to prevent Southeast Louisiana from drowning in the Gulf, because the Mississippi River carries the sediment necessary to keep pace with sea level rise.

USGS

Let’s imagine it is the Spring of 2025, and Louisiana is preparing to open three diversions on the lower Mississippi so fresh water and sediment can reach wetlands struggling to stay ahead of sea level rise.

We've collected the first five episodes of our ongoing environmental series The Louisiana Coast: Last Call into one podcast.

You can play the stories on this page, right click on the player and select "Save As" to download it, or find all of our last call podcasts here:

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Is It 'Last Call' For Louisiana's Coast?

May 22, 2013

Join WWNO — New Orleans Public Radio and Bob Marshall, The Lens’ Coastal Desk reporter, on Wednesday, May 22, for an in-depth discussion of coastal issues discussed in our new series The Louisiana Coast: Last Call.

The series reveals this sobering consensus from coastal scientists and state officials: If the master plan for the coast isn’t completed over the next 40 years, most of southeast Louisiana will be under water before the end of the century.

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