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 delta is disintegrating, losing a football field of wetlands each hour, even as the Gulf of Mexico rises.
Louisiana’s comprehensive coastal Master Plan is a science-based framework for restoring the 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.
Oil and Gas Accountability
BP is not the only oil company responsible for damaging Louisiana’s coast. Oil and gas canals and pollution are responsible for the loss of at least 400 square miles of coastal land, and perhaps much more.
The industry has long delayed payment of its debt to Louisiana's coast. Each year, ever more wells are abandoned, and companies fail to fill canals, remove spoil banks, and restore vegetation, though required by law. Whenever destructive companies don’t pay to repair their damage to the coast, taxpayers are left holding the bill.
Protecting Our Communities Now
Many of the Master Plan’s mega-projects will take years to build, and many hurricane seasons will come and go before they begin to 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. Every season the State waits to fulfill its promise and support coastal parishes, Louisianans pay for the delay with their taxes, their homes, and more.
Saving the coast has broad support, and restoring our coastal lines of defense restores our communities, economy, environment and wildlife. But implementing that strategy requires everyone to do their share, and acting swiftly.
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.