Bold plan proposed to save coastal Louisiana

Jan 13, 2012, 12:46 AM

Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (AP) – A $50 billion, 50-year proposal aspires to stop coastal land loss in Louisiana, build new levee systems to protect cities and even begin to slowly reverse the trend of eroding marsh that has turned the entire southern portion of the state into one of the nation’s most vulnerable regions to sea level rise.

On Thursday, Gov. Bobby Jindal’s coastal team said it would like to spend billions of dollars the state expects to get over the next half-century from increased royalties from offshore drilling, fines from the BP PLC oil spill and other sources to try to save the coast. The idea is garnering praise from some scientists and skepticism from others who openly wonder if the coast should be saved.

Since the 1930s, the state’s coast has lost about 1,900 square miles, an area larger than Rhode Island. Louisiana’s delta, created by the Mississippi River, has been falling apart because of levees on the Mississippi, oil drilling and other causes.

Since the 1990s, the federal and state governments have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on coastal restoration, but those efforts have been unable to stop land loss and the White House has backed plans for a much more aggressive program to save coastal Louisiana from disappearing.

“Our choice is simple: embrace a robust suite of solutions that address our crisis head on, or give up on the coast,” the plan says.

Optimistically, the plan if carried out foresees an end to land loss in 30 years and creating up to 859 square miles of land over the next five decades. If nothing is done to stem the rising seas and land loss, the plan predicts the state would lose 1,756 square miles over that time.

Much of that new land, the plan says, would be built by opening up diversions on the Mississippi River and the Atchafalaya River to flush sediment and freshwater into marshlands now sinking and eroding. Also, it calls for building new ridges, pumping sediment into eroded marshes, building new shorelines, shoring up coastal spots that have fallen apart and pouring sand onto disappearing barrier islands.

Significantly, the plan also calls for new levee systems for the coastal cities and towns, including better protection for New Orleans and new levees for Lake Charles, Houma, Slidell, Morgan City, New Iberia and Abbeville.

“The state of Louisiana has tackled this world-class problem with a world-class approach,” said William Dennison, a marine scientist with the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science who helped craft the report. “They are making a strong case that this is not just a Louisiana issue, but it is a national issue.”

He praised the plan for making “hard choices” about where to focus efforts.

“There are difficult trade-offs,” he said. “There are going to be some winners and losers.”

Still, there was something in the plan for nearly every location along the coast _ and that will surely leave many scientists and critics questioning how realistic the proposal is and stir debate about whether many parts of southern Louisiana can be saved from the rising Gulf of Mexico.

Edward P. Richards is a science and public health law professor at Louisiana State University studying the state’s coastal policies. He said any plan that proposes to save most of coastal Louisiana puts people in harm’s way. The government encouraging people to continue living along the coast will result in new disasters when the next major hurricane strikes, he contends.

“We have threats that are so politically unpalatable to deal with that we create mythologies to reassure the public that we are properly managing those threats,” he said. “What should be seriously debated is whether there should be any levees built anywhere or whether we should let the coast naturally shrink and move inland.”

No communities are left behind under the plan, said Garret Graves, chairman of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, the agency that developed the idea.

He said the plan had a “degree of realism” that previous plans for saving the coast lacked. He said the idea to use computer models to prioritize projects takes out the political element that went into determining what got done. Often, those “who screamed the loudest” were rewarded with projects.

He said the new plan was “unassailable in terms of science.”

Still, some scientists remained guarded.

Robert S. Young, a coastal geologist at Western Carolina University who studies Louisiana’s problems, said the plan amounted to re-engineering the coast, which would create new problems.

“They are changing the topography of coastal Louisiana,” Young said. “I’m a firm believer that we are not smart enough to know what that will do when the next Hurricane Katrina sweeps across coastal Louisiana.”

He also questioned the optimistic estimates about land creation.

“Are they creating any land that has any value, either from an ecosystem perspective or a storm protection perspective?”

But he praised the blueprint for its apparent candidness. “There is finally a recognition that they will not be able to protect the entire map of Louisiana as it exists now or as it existed in the 20th century.”

The public will have a chance to comment on it before it is presented to the Louisiana Legislature in March.

______

On The Web:

Louisiana’s new coastal master plan:
http://www.coastalmasterplan.louisiana.gov/

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

United States News

FILE - Signs on the wall remind students to keep 6 feet apart during a media tour of the Norris Mid...
Associated Press

CDC drops quarantine, distancing recommendations for COVID

NEW YORK (AP) — The nation’s top public health agency relaxed its COVID-19 guidelines Thursday, dropping the recommendation that Americans quarantine themselves if they come into close contact with an infected person. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also said people no longer need to stay at least 6 feet away from others. The […]
17 hours ago
Greenwood Police Chief James Ison speak during a press conference at the Greenwood City Center in G...
Associated Press

FBI: Data from mall gunman’s laptop cannot be recovered

GREENWOOD, Ind. (AP) — Data cannot be recovered from the laptop of the 20-year-old man who allegedly shot five people in a suburban Indianapolis shopping mall, killing three of them, the FBI said Thursday. Agents were unable to recover data from the laptop found in the gunman’s oven, Herb Stapleton, the special agent in charge […]
17 hours ago
Scott Peterson walks into a courtroom at the San Mateo County Superior Court in Redwood City, Calif...
Associated Press

Judge to decide if Scott Peterson victim of jury misconduct

Scott Peterson’s trial attorney missed an opportunity to grill a California juror about bias who eventually helped send him to death row for murdering his pregnant wife and unborn child, his appellate lawyer conceded Thursday while arguing the former fertilizer salesman deserves a new trial because of juror misconduct. Attorney Cliff Gardner, who alleges juror […]
17 hours ago
FILE - Packages riding on a belt are scanned to be loaded onto delivery trucks at the Amazon Fulfil...
Associated Press

OSHA investigates deaths of Amazon workers in New Jersey

Federal work-safety investigators are looking into the death of an Amazon worker and an injury that potentially led to the death of another employee, adding to a probe already underway following a third fatality during the company’s annual Prime Day shopping event in mid-July. All three Amazon workers died within the past month and were […]
17 hours ago
FILE - New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference at New York's Yankee Stadium on J...
Associated Press

Cuomo: Taxpayers should pay sexual harassment legal bills

NEW YORK (AP) — Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants taxpayers to foot his legal bills as he defends himself against a workplace sexual harassment claim — and he’s suing the state’s attorney general over it. Cuomo filed the suit against Attorney General Letitia James on Thursday. He’s arguing that James violated state law […]
17 hours ago
Associated Press

Northwestern selects Oregon’s Schill to be next president

EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) — University of Oregon President Michael Schill will assume that office at Northwestern University this fall, the Evanston school’s board of trustees announced Thursday. Schill has led Oregon since 2015. He previously served as the law school dean at the University of Chicago and at UCLA. He earned a degree in public […]
17 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Ways to prevent clogged drains and what to do if you’re too late

While there are a variety of ways to prevent clogged drains, it's equally as important to know what to do when you're already too late.
(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Most plumbing problems can be fixed with regular maintenance

Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, experts suggest getting a head start on your plumbing maintenance.
Bold plan proposed to save coastal Louisiana