FACTBOX-A $50 billion wish list to keep Louisiana coast above water

by Ellen Wulfhorst | @EJWulfhorst | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 5 July 2017 07:01 GMT

Venice, Louisiana, which lies at the southern end of the 2,350 mile-long (3,780 km) Mississippi River, is a popular destination for commercial and recreational fishing, June 6, 2017. It serves as a taking-off point for reaching off-shore oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Ellen Wulfhorst

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Southern Louisiana, under siege from rising sea levels, subsiding land and coastal erosion, is losing thousands of acres of wetlands to the encroaching Gulf of Mexico each year

By Ellen Wulfhorst

VENICE, Louisiana, July 5 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Southern Louisiana, under siege from rising sea levels, subsiding land and coastal erosion, is losing thousands of acres of wetlands to the encroaching Gulf of Mexico each year.

FEATURE-Fight, flee, or wait and see? Locals face hard choices as Louisiana coast recedes

Here are some facts about the area and its residents, as well as shorelines under threat across the United States:

  • In June, the state of Louisiana adopted the "2017 Coastal Master Plan" that will serve as a blueprint for more than 120 projects to fight coastal loss over the next 50 years.
  • Fully funding all the projects would cost $50 billion. About $7 billion is due to come from fines levied after the explosion and oil spill at BP's Deepwater Horizon rig in 2010. The state has identified a further several billion dollars from a range of sources over the next 15 years.
  • Many projects are aimed at building up to 800 square miles (2,072 square km) of new land, and lowering the likely cost of coastal damage by about $8 billion per year by the plan's 50th year.

The maps above show how the southern Louisiana coastline would look in 2067 with and without the actions outlined in the 2017 Coastal Master Plan to reduce loss of land. The data for the maps was originally created by the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority for the 2017 Coastal Master Plan.

  • According to the U.S. government's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), global sea level rise could range from 1 foot (0.3 meters) to 8.2 feet (2.5 meters) by 2100, depending on the pace of climate change and other factors.
  • Two in five - or more than 123 million people - in the United States live on its shorelines, facing rising sea levels, flooding and erosion. That number is projected to grow by 10 million people by 2020, NOAA says.
  • An Indian tribe of about 100 people living on Louisiana's Isle de Jean Charles has a $48-million federal government grant to relocate after rising seas and erosion gobbled their land.
  • The plight of the tribe, which has lost 98 percent of its land since the 1950s, was depicted in an Oscar-nominated 2012 movie "Beasts of the Southern Wild" and a 2013 documentary "Can't Stop the Water".
  • Relocation of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw members is the first time in the United States an entire community is being moved due to sea level, according to the government.
  • Methods already underway or planned to protect, restore and adapt to changes on the Louisiana coast include rebuilding barrier islands, putting in place levees and flood-gates, elevating homes, diverting river water and sediment into wetlands, and constructing oyster barrier reefs.
  • U.S. President Donald Trump recently said rising sea levels are not a big concern after seeing a story on CNN about a 1.3-square mile (3.4-square km) island in Virginia that is shrinking 15 feet (4.6 m) a year, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Trump called Tangier Island Mayor James Eskridge, according to the Washington Post and other media, and told him residents shouldn't worry about rising seas, as their island had been there for hundreds of years, "and I believe your island will be there for hundreds more".
  • A Shrimp & Petroleum Festival is held each year in Morgan City, Louisiana, featuring music, food and crafts to celebrate the region's giant industries. A recent festival drew some 140,000 people.
  • Louisiana Highway 23, known as the Great River Road, follows the lower Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico. It ends in the aptly named tiny town of Venice, where a sign reads "Southernmost Point in Louisiana - Gateway to the Gulf".

SOURCES: Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority of Louisiana, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, LA SAFE (Louisiana's Strategic Adaptations for Future Environments), Nola.com, Internet Movie Database, Reuters, CNN, Washington Post, KATC.com, RoadTripUSA.com

(Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, editing by Megan Rowling; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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