Berchmans Honors Blog: Not on My Watch- Coastal Erosion and Louisiana Politics

Not on My Watch: Coastal Erosion and Louisiana Politics 

As Louisiana’s battered coasts finally take a breath of fresh air after Hurricane Ida, a new trial for the state of Louisiana has been forecast: coastal erosion. Coastal erosion has been a problem  for the last 80 years, but it became  more pronounced in the 1930’s when large damming and levy projects  were implemented to tame the Mississippi River. Although the dams and levies succeeded at preventing floods and saved many lives, their construction led to the erosion that would cause Louisiana’s coastline to vanish off the map. 

Every 100 minutes, a football-field-sized segment of coastline is lost.  In total, 2,200 miles of coastline washed away in the past century, and it is predicted that another 2,500 miles of additional coastline will be lost in the next 50 years. Recently, divisive state politics and oil companies have severely hampered true efforts to repair the coast. In fact, politicians have been brawling with the Mississippi River since The Great Flood of 1927. Meanwhile, oil companies have their own interests at heart. Protecting the coast would close vital shipping lanes and limit access to 90% of America’s offshore oil, a death sentence for the oil companies. Negativity aside, however, the true issue pertains to the failed political campaigns that promised to address our coastal problem. 

The federal government only started to recognize the legitimacy of coastal erosion and work to prevent it in 1990, when the establishment of the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act (CWPPRA) was enacted by Congress. The Restoration Act focuses on the region of the Gulf Coast and works with local government agencies to restore and protect the wetlands in the region. The Coastal Impact Assistance Program (CIAP) was also established in 2007 to assist states with loss of coastline and wetlands due to oil and gas exploitation. Its primary goal has been to conserve, protect, and preserve Louisiana’s coastal areas and wetlands. In the end, the federal government can only do so much to help the region, and it is time for Louisiana’s government to step up and take action.

The government of Louisiana has been aware of the recession of the coastline since 1932, yet only recently has the state government started to raise its arms to protect Louisiana.  One government agency, The Natural Resources Conservation Service of Louisiana (NRCS), has restored 175 miles of the coast. However, that is only a drop in the bucket compared to the 2,000 miles that have been eroded. The NRCS is not the only government agency to combat the issue. New efforts have been formulated to start a new phase of healing and are turning the tide against coastal erosion. For the next four years, it is predicted that we will begin to see a net gain of coastline: Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) has spent 602 million dollars to dredge up sediment and sand and will use it to create, reestablish, and nourish 61,000 acres of wetlands and 95 miles of coastline. 

In the end, the fate of Louisiana’s future is in our hands. The people of Louisiana must rally behind those who wish to improve our state. It is our civic duty to vote for politicians who pledge to combat coastal erosion, instead of repeating the same empty promise of political theater that has left Louisiana diminished and in danger of washing away.