Coastal Erosion in Louisiana
The wetlands of Louisiana are a critical part of the local industry, but they are eroding every year. Statistics show that the state has three million acres, but about 30 football fields a day are lost to erosions. Unfortunately, stopping this situation isn’t easy or inexpensive.
The Loss of a Vital Part of the Nation
Studies show that about half of the wetlands around the country have been lost in the past two centuries. Part of this occurs naturally, but much of the problem is caused by human activities. They may drain and fill in the wetlands to increase agriculture or grazing lands. Developers also fill them in to build properties. Also, other people will dredge the wetlands to create canals.
Louisiana accounts for almost half of the wetlands in the entire country, but they have sustained over three-fourths of the losses. An extensive part of the state is made up of the wetlands. They go along the coast for about 300 kilometers and inland for around 130 kilometers.
The wetlands are crucial to the Louisiana way of life. They provide for agricultural and recreational interests. The most important aspect of this area is for the seafood industry. The state has a $1 billion industry annually in seafood, which would be highly impacted by the loss of the wetlands.
The federal and state agencies in Louisiana are working with the US Geological Survey to study the coast and learn more about the processes involved in creating wetlands and maintaining them as well as what is causing the deterioration. One study began in 1988 with the US Fish and Wildlife Service on erosion of the Louisiana Barrier Island.
Several studies have shown that regular shifting in the course of the Mississippi River has been a significant cause of erosion to the wetlands. Deltas have been abandoned which caused erosion of the coastal processes while also forming barrier beaches.
The barrier islands are eroding over time, which leaves wetlands unprotected and vulnerable to tidal currents, surges in storms, and wave action. Levees have prevented the seasonal flooding which provided critical elements to the wetlands to keep them thriving and growing.
Protecting the Wetlands
Solutions to protect and maintain the wetlands aren’t always met with support. The options often have a significant impact on communities and agriculture as well as affecting the petroleum industry. Researchers are still working to understand the wetland system. By understanding what’s necessary to maintain and protect this valuable system, they can incorporate solutions which will be effective and work with nature rather than against it.
Without the protection of the barrier islands, much of the $10 billion annual fishing industry will be lost. This will not only impact the recreational fishers but those who make their living supplying fresh seafood to business and individual consumers. Louisiana is number one in the commercial fishing industry with the Port of New Orleans being one of the busiest shipping hubs in the country. The coast along the state is also a top spot for recreation enthusiasts, bringing in tourists from all around the country, which provides over $400 million annually to the local economy. It is critical that a solution to protect these barrier islands and the surrounding wetlands be found as soon as possible.
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