Tombstones of Louisiana coastal erosion

Louisiana coastal erosion is a national disaster that must be addressed

Take a look at wall map of Louisiana, and one would think the coastline is healthy. But that map, produced by the state and horribly outdated, has little connection to the wisps of marshland quietly washing into the Gulf of Mexico.

louisiana coastal restoration

Wetlands loss is slowly eating away Louisiana’s coastline.

The Louisiana coast is dying. And the nation is watching it disappear with little more than lip service to addressing Louisiana coastal erosion – the biggest environmental disaster facing the United States.

Think about it:

  • More than 2,300 square miles have washed away along the Louisiana coast in the past 75 years.
  • At the current rate (and erosion rates are growing at exponential rates), an estimated 640,000 acres will disappear by 2050. That would be like cutting Rhode Island out of the East Coast — which no one would accept.
  • The wetlands that are disappearing offer protection from hurricane storm surges such as the one that pushed water into New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Every 2.7 miles of marshland absorbs 1 foot of storm surge.
  • Every one-mile strip of coastal wetlands results in an estimated $5,752,816 average annual increase in property damage from hurricanes.
  • 18 percent of the nation’s oil production and 24 percent of the nation’s natural gas production originates in, is transported through and processed along the Louisiana wetlands.
  • The state’s commercial fisheries provide 25 to 35 percent of the seafood in the markets and restaurants of the lower 48 states. Louisiana ranks first in the production of oysters, shrimp, crabs, crawfish, red snapper, wild-caught catfish, sea trout and mullet.
  • Louisiana’s wetlands are vitally important to the continent’s waterfowl population, much of which floods the state during the annual migration.
  • The loss of the Louisiana marshes is estimated to cost the nation $36.6 billion from lost public use value over the next 50 years.

Louisiana coastal erosion

The areas in red represent predicted land loss to erosion along the Louisiana coast during the next 50 years.

So the marshes that for most of the history of the area was considered to be worthless is vital to the United States. It provides much of the energy needed to power our cars and industry, and if you love seafood the odds are very good that you dine on something dragged from the Louisiana coast.

These marshes that are so valuable to the nation are home to the most-incredible ecosystem in the nation, serving as a nursery for such a wealth of fisheries that it boggles the mind. Local anglers scoff at legendary coastal fishing grounds like Florida and the Carolinas: There’s simply no comparison, whether your goal is to catch redfish, speckled trout, flounder or even bass.

The cost to save the coast is, admittedly, staggering. Fully enacting the Louisiana’s Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast would carry a $50 billion price tag. That’s a lot to swallow, but maintaining the war effort in Afghanistan has cost the nation more than $3.1 trillion.

And the cost of doing nothing? The loss of a true national treasure.

You can get involved in saving the Louisiana coast by contacting your congressional legislators and demand they support funding of the master plan, as well as supporting the America’s Wetlands initiative.

Click here to view my full Louisiana Collection!

About Andy Crawford

Andy Crawford has been a photographer and writer for more than 20 years, with thousands of images and articles published in magazines and newspapers around the country. He now focuses on Louisiana photography, landscapes, HDR photography, urban prints and other fine art photography. He also is a portrait photographer.