Since the 1930's, Louisiana has lost 1,900 square miles of coastline and continues to lose land at a rate of 25 to 35 square miles per year. At this rate, Louisiana loses the equivalent of one football field every 38 minutes
Why is this happening?
- The Louisiana coast was created by silt that the Mississippi River deposited at its mouth and in flood zones
- Because the Mississippi is controlled by levees that keep it on one path, all of its sediment is deposited into the Gulf, instead of spreading into and enriching the coast
- Among other factors, dredging channels for ships, oil and gas pipelines and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway comprises as much as 40% of total land loss1
Why is the coast so important?
- Louisiana's coastal marshes provide habitat for many species, a protection barrier for the ports and cities against storms and hurricanes, and a great source of recreation and seafood for us
- Louisiana's shoreline contains 30% of all coastal marshes and experiences 90% of all coastal marsh loss in the continental United States
- More than 5 million migratory birds, which make up 70 percent of the nation's migrant2 birds, rest in Louisiana's coastal habitat
- Two million Louisiana residents, about 50% of the state's populace, live in coastal parishes, according to the 2000 Census
- The coastline protects vital ports in Louisiana that carry 500 million tons of waterborne commerce, making up about 21% of all US waterborne commerce
- The wetlands also provide the US with ¼ of its seafood supply
- In 2001, Louisiana commercial fishing brought in $343 million dollars, about 27% of the US fishing industry3
- South Louisiana produces one fifth of the country's oil and one quarter of its natural gas4
- Over 25% of all oil and gas consumed in the US passes through the Louisiana shore
- Eco-tourism in the marshlands brings $220 million to the state economy through activities such as hiking, bird watching, photography, and camping
What legislation exists to help?
- The Breaux Act of 1990 called for a "no net loss" of coastal wetlands, which would require $14 billion
- Coast 2050: Toward a Sustainable Louisiana, released in 1998, was the first comprehensive plan to recommend solutions for restoring coastal ecosystems
- The Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) study is a plan for coastal restoration, which followed the suggestions of Coast 2050 and must be approved by Congress
- The Water Resources and Development Act (WRDA) would provide $362 million for LCA and requires the US Army Corps of Engineers to provide a comprehensive restoration and Mississippi River modification plan to Congress by July 2008. The plan must then be approved by Congress
What will happen if nothing is done?
- The projected amount of land loss in the next 50 years is anywhere from 500 square miles5, to 700 square miles6
- By the year 2100 the land loss will be greater than the combined areas of Delaware and the Washington, DC- Baltimore Metro Area7
YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE!
- According to the Louisiana Coastal Area study, 70% of coastal losses are man-made; therefore, human actions can also help reverse this disappearing act for the future
- Actions YOU can take
- Stay informed
- Write letters to your state and U.S. legislators
- Send letters-to-the-editor to your local newspaper
- Join the Sierra Club if you're not already a member
- Participate in awareness-raising events
- Visit the Delta Chapter Web site often for up-to-date information on what you can do: http://louisiana.sierraclub.org/
Sources: Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, America's Wetland, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, Louisiana Coastal Area websites, The Scientific American.
For more information contact the Sierra Club at 225-925-8650.
- Penland, Dr. Shea. "The Mississippi River: Barrier Island Formation, Delta Building, and Coastal Land Loss." University of New Orleans.
- "The Coastal Crisis and Louisiana's Response" WaterMarks. September 2002, no 21
- Fishetti, Mark. "Drowning New Orleans." The Scientific American, Oct 2001.
- Louisiana Department of Natural Resources
- United State Geological Survey (USGS)
- America's Wetland. www.americawetlands.com
This page was researched and compiled by Mara Cohen.
Coastal erosion fact sheet:
FOR OUR FAMILIES, FOR OUR FUTURE!
The Delta Chapter is 3,000 of your neighbors supporting the work of the Sierra Club in Louisiana. We advance the cause of protecting Louisiana's environment in a variety of ways, including lobbying the state legislature in Baton Rouge, sponsoring a Mercury Public Education Campaign, raising public awareness about climate change, and working to keep the Atchafalaya Basin, America's greatest river swamp, wet and wild. In addition, we encourage our members to get outside and enjoy our beautiful planet.
The Sierra Club's members and supporters are more than 1.3 million of your friends and neighbors. Inspired by nature, we work together to protect our communities and the planet. The Club is America's oldest, largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization.