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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Scientific American's report on Louisiana coastal restoration is somber and depressing

Posted By on Thu, Dec 11, 2014 at 10:20 AM

click to enlarge This satellite image of Plaquemines Parish by the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority shows coastal loss (in red) and restoration (in green). - SCREENCAP TAKEN FROM SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN
  • Screencap taken from Scientific American
  • This satellite image of Plaquemines Parish by the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority shows coastal loss (in red) and restoration (in green).

If you've been having a really good week and would like a downer to bring you back to earth, head over to Scientific American for the second story in a two-part series on Louisiana's vanishing coastline. The piece is written in collaboration with The LensProPublica and Knight-Mozilla OpenNews and follows up on the the even more depressing first story written in August. While the first piece outlined just how devastated the Louisiana coastline is, the second outlines the risky and uncertain rebuilding effort.

In case you don't want to ruin your week by reading the entire piece, click through for a bunch of depressing excerpts.

First, let's start with the limited scope of the coastal restoration plan as it compares to all the land lost:
The plan doesn’t aim to rebuild everything that has been lost so far, or even fight for everything that remains now. Instead, the more modest goal is to restore enough wetlands to cushion communities from storm surge and provide a functioning fishery.

Even that is not a sure thing
Off to a great start.
Meanwhile, Louisiana must find a way to pay for it. Although this battle has consequences for the rest of the country, so far Congress has spurned most requests for funding. Louisiana, one of the nation’s poorest states, could run out money for coastal restoration in 10 years.
Oh, well that's no good. But at least something is being done and we're making progress, right?
But those gains are just a speck of what's needed in the long-term. With the coast disappearing at 16 square miles a year, it takes nature just two months to wash away as much land statewide as was created in Bayou Dupont and Lake Hermitage.
But, we have other plans right? Preferably ones that last more than a few years?
The second method of rebuilding wetlands, controlled sediment diversions, doesn't have those problems.
That's good!
Regardless of the method, the state doesn't believe there's enough sediment in the river to save everything. Wetlands along the last 40 miles to the Gulf, including those near the mouth of the river referred to as the Bird's Foot Delta, are not in the restoration plan.
That's bad!
Considering how much remains unknown, a few scientists ask why Louisiana has staked so much on diversions. They worry the state could waste its last chance for the coast on a technique they believe poses its own habitat threats and exists only on computer models.
Great. And we haven't even mentioned the other potential problems with this coastal restoration outlined in the article like how water diversion could affect shipping and fishing industries or how most of the wetlands will disappear regardless of what we do, making all this effort for naught.

Ugh, this is all so depressing. Who else needs a drink?

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