Talk to anyone in South Louisiana and they know that the future is clouded by sea level rise and subsidence. They also know that if the Master Plan for the Coast is not implemented on time, as scheduled, Southeast Louisiana has very little chance of staying above that sea level rise.
Originally published on Fri November 22, 2013 6:47 pm
The U.S. lost an average of 80,000 acres of coastal wetlands from 2004 to 2009, according to the latest data published by federal agencies. More than 70 percent of the estimated loss came in the Gulf of Mexico; nationwide, most of the loss was blamed on development that incurred on freshwater wetlands.
"The losses of these vital wetlands were 25 percent greater than during the previous six years," NPR's Elizabeth Shogren reports for our Newscast unit. She also notes that the loss equals "about seven football fields every hour."
This special multimedia feature — from The Weather Channel and New Orleans-based reporter Katy Reckdahl and photographer Kathleen Flynn — examines how and why the Louisiana coast is disappearing into the Gulf of Mexico, largely through the eyes of the people living there.
Because of a slow-moving disaster caused by sinking land, climate change and oil exploration, Louisiana's coastal families must choose between leaving their homes for higher ground or staying where generations of their families lived, on land so precarious the next hurricane could wash them away.
New Orleans' levee board is suing energy companies for damaging the Mississippi River delta by cutting canals through the marshland. The canals let in sea water, which kills marshes, eroding the city's protective buffer against storms. A map of the delta.
Credit Frank Relle
The canals have become tools for the local seafood and charter-fishing business, too. Dr. John Lopez of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation holds a crab trap pulled from a canal. A dormant natural-gas well is in the background.
Anyone following the development of the Master Plan for the Louisiana coast knows that the central part of the plan is also its most controversial: large scale river diversions, opening the levees on the sides of the Mississippi River south of New Orleans to let the silt-carrying Mississippi out into these sinking deltas to begin rebuilding them.
But not everyone’s happy with that, because restoring the deltas to their former state means changing things from the way they’ve been for almost 70 years.
Many states suffer from a shortage of water, but not Louisiana — we’ve got a surplus. Problem is, we don’t know what to do with it. And as our coastline diminishes each year, the urgency to make a decision is pivotal.
Experts have been brainstorming about Louisiana’s relationship with water, and they recently congregated at the second annual Anba Dlo symposium to share their thoughts with the public.
The second part of a trial resumed in the Federal District Court here in New Orleans this month to decide just how much BP will pay for polluting the Gulf of Mexico and Louisiana during the Deepwater Horizon spill back in 2010.
Marketplace reporter Sam Harnett takes a look at Louisiana's voracious unoffical mascot: the nutria. Trappers who put a significant dent in nutria populations are retiring, and some are looking for new solutions to help stem the tide of the ecologically-destructive beasties.