The Gulf Coast Restoration Forum: Deciding how to save Louisiana’s coastline

Coastal Restoration PanelOn August 12th I attended a Coastal Restoration/Protection Forum in Davant, Louisiana called “Getting the Jobs & Water Right.” The Gulf Restoration Network was a sponsor of this event and I was there to learn about what the concerns and opportunities were for coastal communities as we envision restoration of these critical areas.We all know the threat that Louisiana faces; the threat that communities, traditions, and livelihoods will be lost as Louisiana’s land slowly slides into the Gulf of Mexico. Naturally and historically the Mississippi river flooded, spilling rich sediments along the river, creating natural banks and land that could keep up with the natural land loss in the coastal region. Now that people and industries have intervened with the river we no longer see this natural land building, but rather significant land loss. Much of the land below New Orleans, as well as parts of the city could be gone in fifty to a hundred years if no action is taken to restore land.A river diversion is an effective way to once again rebuild the coastline of Louisiana and keep the surrounding land from disappearing. But river diversions are a sensitive matter in which communities must discuss the costs and benefits associated as certain communities will suffer different damages. This is why it is so important to have community input to make sure they are built effectively and don’t have disproportionate impacts on communities.The Gulf Coast Restoration Forum held August 12, dealt with these issues as NGOs, scientists, representatives from government agencies, and community members met to discuss a restoration plan to save coastal Louisiana. The forum allowed for community residents to voice their concerns about the restoration plan as certain communities will experience more severe impacts depending on the types of projects pursued. This forum served as a first step in bringing community members together to learn about these impacts and to engage in the important conversations that will bring us together on a path toward restoration.Nathalie WalkerAny type of restoration that takes place in coastal Louisiana will stimulate the local economy as new projects will create jobs for south Louisiana. The general consensus at the forum which all parties agreed on was that these jobs should stay local and offer employment for south Louisiana residents.Land loss will continue in coastal Louisiana and all residents, including those in New Orleans will eventually be forced to relocate if a restoration plan is not set in place and followed through. Inviting various members of the community to attend these meetings and voice their concerns allows for problems and concerns to be addressed as these plans are developed. Soon, however, consensus must be formed and the work must begin if we are to address this crisis in a meaningful way.Aspen Nero is a Campaign Leader with the Gulf Restoration Network

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