Yesterday, Governor John Bel Edwards released a statement in which he highlighted the importance of Louisiana’s coast, stating that our land loss crisis “isn’t a Louisiana problem; it’s a national emergency.”
Louisiana is sinking. The ocean is rising. That’s not a good combination. To say this is a problem is an understatement. It’s very encouraging, however, that our governor is speaking up for our state and bringing national attention to our coastal crisis.
The Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) has been given the immense task of coming up with a plan to build and maintain land and reduce flooding risk for our communities, businesses and wildlife. An update to that plan was released earlier this month and will go to the legislature for approval in April (read more on that here).
If the Coastal Master Plan is to be fully implemented, the support of the entire nation, not just Louisiana, will be necessary. This is indeed a national emergency. While Louisiana’s dilemma is great, there is hope. The support of our elected officials at all levels of government – local, state, and national – is vital. As Governor Edwards says, “there is still hope, but time is of the essence…The bottom line for America: there is no greater return on investment than helping to save coastal Louisiana.”
Read below for Governor Edwards’ case for the coast (originally published in the Times-Picayune and nola.com January 12, 2017):
Since the presidential election there has been a renewed interest in boosting investment in our nation’s aging or nonexistent infrastructure — to do “something big” that would rejuvenate the economy and provide benefits across generations.
Speculation seems to have forgotten the one project with an exponential return on investment, a project sorely needed to keep 41 percent of our lower 48 states from suffering economic hardship — if not disaster — in this century. Saving and restoring Louisiana’s vanishing coastal ecosystem is that important to the nation.
Save coastal Louisiana, and you save 37 percent of all the coastal marshes in the continental United States. You save the habitat that produces 21 percent of all commercial fisheries’ landings by weight in the lower 48 states and is home to approximately 75 percent of all commercially harvested fish species in Louisiana that use our wetlands for at least one stage of their life cycle. You save five of America’s top 15 ports that ship 60 percent of the nation’s grain and $21 billion annually in agricultural products. You save Port Fourchon, which services 90 percent of the oil and gas activity in the Gulf of Mexico, and the Henry Hub that is the nexus of nine interstate and four intrastate natural gas pipelines, and you save the nation’s only port capable of offloading deep draft tankers — all told, approximately $44 billion in annual fuel products for the nation.
This isn’t a Louisiana problem; it’s a national emergency. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita demonstrated how important coastal infrastructure is to the preservation of human life, and how completely disruptive, costly and disastrous infrastructure failures can be for our nation’s economy.
Since the storms, Louisiana has embarked on a scientifically-rigorous process to identify its current and future coastal vulnerabilities and the projects best suited to address those risks. This month Louisiana released the latest update to its renowned science-based Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast, endorsed by a wide range of groups, academics and scientists dedicated to sustaining everything from commerce, industry and navigation to our environment, our fisheries and our unique culture.
Fortunately, the science indicates the loss does not have to continue unabated because we have a tremendous resource available, our country’s greatest natural asset and largest navigable waterway: the Mississippi River. We can again put it to use doing what it once did — build land in the delta. Sediment flooding out of the Mississippi River built all the land in the Mississippi Valley from Missouri to the Gulf of Mexico. Before the river was disconnected from its natural delta by levees built after the great flood of 1927, the deposition of sediment had Louisiana growing at about three-quarters of a square mile per year. At that rate we should be 60 square miles larger than we were in 1930. Instead we are 1,900 square miles smaller. In fact, Louisiana is losing a football field of coast every hour.
There is still hope, but time is of the essence. Louisiana is making progress and has a clear path forward through its coastal master plan. It has guided us to remarkable progress since Katrina: more than 31,000 acres of land reclaimed and benefited using more than 115 million cubic yards of material dredged from our rivers and the Gulf of Mexico; more than 274 miles of levees improved; and 52 miles of barrier islands and shorelines restored in a more-sustainable fashion. It is a good start, but just a start.
A recent study by Louisiana State University and the RAND Corporation concluded that without implementation of our coastal master plan, just one future hurricane could produce storm damages of $133 billion to fixed assets and a disruption of economic activity causing $51 billion in additional losses. These storm damages would overwhelm the $14 billion federal investment in the Greater New Orleans Hurricane Risk Reduction System and affect 320,000 employees at 26,000 establishments. These economic interruptions would be felt throughout the United States, including losses due to gasoline supply disruptions.
The bottom line for America: there is no greater return on investment than helping to save coastal Louisiana.
– Governor John Bel Edwards