Is Louisiana's coast worth saving?

by Heather Miller

Gov. Bobby Jindal's 50 year, $50 billion plan to address land loss in Louisiana has drawn both praise and criticism from the science community.

BP fines, offshore drilling royalties and "other" funding sources are the key ingredients for a $50 billion recipe to save Louisiana's coast.

According to ABC News, Gov. Bobby Jindal has unveiled a "bold plan" to stop coastal erosion over the next 50 years and build new levee systems in and around the coastal cities of Lake Charles, Houma, Slidell, Morgan City, New Iberia and Abbeville.

Also included in the proposal is a plan to add new land to the coast, a task that entails opening up Atchafalaya Basin and Mississippi River diversions to carry sediment into the eroding marshland.

But some scientists are questioning whether the coast is "worth saving," with one LSU professor accusing Jindal of "putting people in harm's way:"

"We have threats that are so politically unpalatable to deal with that we create mythologies to reassure the public that we are properly managing those threats," [LSU science and public health professor Edward P. Richards] said. "What should be seriously debated is whether there should be any levees built anywhere or whether we should let the coast naturally shrink and move inland."

Since the 1930s, the state's coast has lost about 1,900 square miles, an area larger than Rhode Island. Louisiana's delta, created by the Mississippi River, has been falling apart because of levees on the Mississippi, oil drilling and other causes.

Since the 1990s, the federal and state governments have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on coastal restoration, but those efforts have been unable to stop land loss and the White House has backed plans for a much more aggressive program to save coastal Louisiana from disappearing.

Optimistically, the plan if carried out foresees an end to land loss in 30 years and creating up to 859 square miles of land over the next fiveĀ  decades. If nothing is done to stem the rising seas and land loss, the plan predicts the state would lose 1,756 square miles over that time.

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