Lake Fausse Point, Louisiana

September 19th, 2005

Publisher's Note: This column originally appeared on December 6th, 2004..if you read it then you will understand why Roger asked to have it run again. If you missed it, here is why the recent hurricane was so deadly.


Save Your Coast

Since January 1, Louisiana has lost 67 million square yards of itself.

Decades of tinkering with nature, of trying to contain that mightiest of all rivers, the Mississippi, have taken their toll. Louisiana is dimin-ishing at a remarkable, shocking rate.

There's no use blaming anyone. The control of nature has long been a futile, hazardous proposition. We are simply left with a legacy of futility, one which the entire nation will suffer.

But every 38 minutes, an area the size of a football field vanishes in Louisiana. Gone. In the last century alone, 1.2 million acres of land is gone. Another 435,000 acres will vanish over the next half century. These two combined equal an area the size of Delaware, Washington D.C. and the Baltimore, Maryland area together.

In the geologic past, the Mississippi River frequently changed its course, fanning out across the coast of Louisiana to create a rich fertile coastline. Some existing bayous are former channels of the Mississippi, most especially the Atchafalaya River, my native waters. Just in my lifetime, the loss of wetlands due to constricting the flow of the Atchafalaya has been devestating. The Mississippi wants to go back down the route of the Atchaflaya, but "we" can't allow that. It would mean devestation of epic proportions.

Instead, we fight the Old Man tooth and nail. We will, eventually, fail.

The Atchafalaya remains an active river delta, which is good news for my immediate area of the coast. But the entire basin area is also drying up, part of the problem of coastal restoration. Its flow is restrained and a rich ecological system is dying.

Yet the lack of that delta deposit is, among other things, equally destructive. Consider that over a quarter of all oil and gas this nation relies on traverses Louisiana on tankers, barges or pipelines. What does coastal loss have to do with this? Most of these channels and roads, as well as the areas where pipelines are located, are vanishing along with the coast. Our barrier islands and wetlands are buffers protecting us from hurricanes. A major storm, of Hurricane Andrew proportions, would have far-reaching effects on oil distribution in the United States. Just look what the recent spate of hurricanes this summer did to gas prices.

Losing ports, channels and roadways that crumble off into the bay means commerce cannot function as it has for decades. One billion pounds of commercial fishing is at stake. Ninety-five percent of all marine life in the Gulf of Mexico use the coastal marshes for many parts of their lives, not the least of which is spawning. It is the wintering habitate for more than five million waterfowl and migratory birds. Commercial fishing ammounts to $343 million in revenue. Recreational fishing is a $703 million industry at minimum.

What you're looking at is a loss of energy, loss of seafood production, loss of recreation opportunities and loss of infrastucture that the entire nation depends on. While Louisiana has been and remains something of a humor subject, in light of our politics and the like, the United States depends upon this state for far more than most folks realize.

It will cost about $14 billion to save our coast. If it can even be saved. If we don't try, more than $100 billion in losses are expected in the following years, for the entire nation. The $14 billion pricetag includes sediment diversions, marsh creation, barrier island restoration, shoreline protection, delta management, river water re-introduction, sediment and nutrient trapping and vegetative planting.

So I submit to you: If the disaster were unfolding elsewhere, would you be willing to help? If the Grand Canyon were filling up with sand, if the sequoia forests were burning, if the Grand Banks were being threatened? Louisiana, as one writer pointed out, has the misfortune of being a poor state, without much political clout, in the South. So if it wasn't Louisiana, if it was Connecticut or Montana or the Carolinas...would it make a difference?

National Geographic magazine recently began a poll asking if the nation should spend $14 billion to save Louisiana's coast. The results so far are an overwhelming Yes! Over 90 percent, in fact.

It's not just a Louisiana problem. Most of the gulf states suffer the same loss of wetlands, though not as severe as Louisiana.

We need help, to help all of us.

Please take the poll and show your support at: http://magma.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0410/feature5/

For further information, consider these sources:

First and foremost, I highly recommend beyond anything else on the subject:

    Bayou Farewell: The Rich Life and Tragic Death of Louisiana's Cajun Coast by Mike Tidwell.

    America's Wetland at http://www.americaswetland.com/

    LACoast at http://www.lacoast.gov/

    Louisiana Department of Natural Resources at http://www.dnr.state.la.us/crm/

    Louisiana Coastal Area Ecosystem Restoration Plan at www.lca.gov

    Atchafalaya Basin Project at http://dnr.louisiana.gov/sec/atchafalaya/

~ Roger

It's out! And available now! You can be one of the first to own a copy of Roger's book. Native Waters: A Few Moments in a Small Wooden Boat

Order it now from www.iuniverse.com, Amazon.com, or Barnes & Noble.com. Roger will also be giving away three autographed copies to readers. Stay tuned, for an announcement on the Bulletin Board on that soon.


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