The 24th Annual Society of Environmental Journalists conference took place in New Orleans last week, bringing to town a few hundred environmental reporters, advocates, scientists, engineers, politicians and more.
Participants got out of the conference rooms to see the levees, bayous, marshes, sinkholes, refineries and rivers that all contribute to the complex region that is Louisiana’s Gulf coast.
When it comes annual rainfall, New Orleans is the third wettest city in the country, next to Pensacola, Florida, and Mobile, Alabama. Historically, this city below sea level has dealt with large amounts of rain by trying to keep as much water out as possible. Now, urban planners, land conservationists and city officials are trying out new strategies to manage water. Keeping more water in, rather than trying to pump it out, may be better for the city than we thought.
Bob Marshall has covered Louisiana’s disappearing coast for decades, including his recent series with Fred Kasten, “Last Call” on WWNO. Now he has a new project, Losing Ground, a collaboration between nonprofit newsroom the Lens, where Marshall is Environment Reporter, and the news nonprofit ProPublica.
A big part of Louisiana’s coastal Master Plan centers around something called “diversions.” Fresh water from the Mississippi River is diverted so that the water, and the silt it carries, can rebuild the sinking coast. But this technique, a centerpiece of Louisiana's coastal Master Plan, is contentious.
The best way to understand Louisiana’s rapidly changing coastal map may be to look from above. That’s how you see the small highways headed south, slim like bony fingers, disappearing into a blue backdrop. What a map can’t express are the histories, hopes and desires of communities along the bayous of the Gulf Coast.
The best way to understand Louisiana’s rapidly changing coastal map may be to look from above. That’s how you see the small highways headed South, slim like bony fingers, disappearing into a blue backdrop. What a map can’t express are the histories, hopes and desires of communities along the bayous of the Gulf Coast.
Dr. Lopez is a coastal scientist and the Director of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation’s Coastal Sustainability Program. Before this he worked in the oil and gas industry, as well as a stint with the Army Corps of Engineers, where he handled project assignments under the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act.
Those who have been lucky enough to travel to the Wax Lake Delta are prone to gush about it. Just ask Ben Weber, who leads trips to the area as an outreach coordinator for the National Wildlife Federation.
From above one can see how the lush, green Delta has spread out into the Gulf over time, a bit of an outlier in a region now more used to seeing coastal land retreat due to sea level rise and erosion.
The Army Corps of Engineers is getting closer to completing new storm protection at the 17th Street, Orleans Avenue and London Avenue canals.
The $615 million system is scheduled to be done in less than three years. Its permanent structures will reduce risk of 100-year level storm surges in New Orleans.
Lieutenant Colonel Austin Appleton is the Army Corps Deputy Commander for the New Orleans District. “What this is doing is pushing the defense of the storm surge to the edge of the city," he says. "Prior, the defense was the interior walls of the canal.”