La.'s Coast Eroding Faster Than Thought
Thu May 22, 3:07 AM ET Add U.S. National - AP to My Yahoo!
By CAIN BURDEAU, Associated Press Writer
NEW ORLEANS - The erosion of Louisiana's fragile coast is even worse
than previously thought, and a third of the state's shoreline, home
to the fabled Mississippi River Delta, could be wiped out by 2050
without urgent action, the U.S. Geological Survey (news - web sites)
Between 1932 and 2000, about 1,900 square miles of Louisiana's marshy
coast washed away, up from the previous estimate of 1,500 square
miles, said the USGS (news - web sites), an Interior Department
bureau charged with safeguarding the environment.
The new figure was presented Wednesday to President Bush (news - web
sites)'s environmental policy adviser, Jim Connaughton, who traveled
to Louisiana to learn about erosion around the Delta.
"Over the next 36 hours you will witness the greatest kept secret,
you will see the pending destruction of the seventh largest delta in
the world," King Milling, chairman of Gov. Mike Foster's advisory
committee on coastal restoration, told Connaughton.
"We believe that this administration should not become an unwitting
partner to these catastrophic events," Milling said.
To win hearts for a massive restoration project, the state is
highlighting the importance of the business, wildlife and culture on
the Delta birthplace of the Blues, home to endangered species like
the Louisiana black bear and American alligator, and a wintering
ground for migratory songbirds.
Louisiana wants the federal government to approve a major coastal
engineering plan that could cost about $14 billion over several
decades. Scientists say the bill is relatively cheap: Doing nothing,
they estimate, will cost more than $100 billion just to restore
Over the next 50 years, an additional 700 square miles of coastline
are expected to be washed away, meaning a third of the Louisiana
coast could be gone by 2050 unless new Mississippi River sediment is
diverted to swamps and marshes, the USGS said. Louisiana represents
about 90 percent of coastal wetlands loss in the lower 48 states, it
The coast's problems date back to 1928, when the Mississippi River
was corralled by levees and dams, which stopped flooding but also
kept sediment needed to replenish the coast from reaching the
deltaic plain. Navigation canals, oil and natural gas exploration and
hurricanes also have chewed up the coast.
Connaughton's trip includes a visit to Port Fourchon, which is key to
the country's oil supply, and a meeting with Foster, who has begun a
campaign to raise awareness nationally of Louisiana's coastal
"I'm here to get a sense of the big picture," Connaughton said at a
Wednesday briefing in New Orleans before leaving on a helicopter trip
to the coast.
Connaughton said Bush is interested in preserving wetlands and
infrastructure. He said he will use what he learns about Louisiana's
problem to better counsel the president on what can be done.
The condition of the coast south of New Orleans in the Barataria and
Terrebonne basins is the worst, said James Johnston of the Geological
Survey's National Wetlands Research Center in Lafayette.
Since 1990, about 66 percent of the state's coastal loss occurred
south of New Orleans and scientists estimate the area could produce
as much as 80 percent of the loss over the next 50 years unless
restoration work is done.
In the last decade, Louisiana has spent over $400 million on about 65
restoration projects, which have dealt with about 22 percent of the
land loss, said Randy Hanchey, assistant secretary for coastal
restoration at the state Department of Natural Resources.
A group of state and federal agencies is working on the broader $14
billion restoration plan and hopes it will be ready for Congress next
"We will continue making the argument that this is not only our
problem but the nation's problem," Hanchey said.
This is a significant cause of the warmer and wetter US climate AND
as the US plans to spend 14 billion--the climate implications, not
understood, are going to be incredible. This may be the start of a
drought and WORSE than the Dust Bowl. Without appreciating the Gaia
consequences, this may be even a worse policy change than Bush's CO2
policy, which is also mind boggingly stupid.