A ground-breaking planning effort by the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) shows that while the future looks bleak, we have the opportunity to take bold action to SAVE the coast and SECURE south Louisiana’s future.

The CPRA's 2012 Coastal Master Plan is based on a two-year analysis involving some of the state's best scientists as well as national and international specialists. The state used this analysis to select 145 high-performing protection and restoration projects that could deliver measurable benefits to our communities and coastal ecosystem over the coming decades. The plan shows that if these projects were fully funded, at a price tag of $50 billion, we could substantially increase flood protection for communities and create a sustainable coast.

Louisiana is in the midst of a land loss crisis that has claimed 1,883 square miles of land since the 1930s. Given the importance of so many of south Louisiana's natural assets-its waterways, natural resources, unique culture and wetlands-this land loss crisis is nothing short of a national emergency, one that takes a daily toll on the lives of coastal residents. To address this crisis, the Louisiana Legislature passed Act 8 in 2006, which created the CPRA and required it to develop a coastal master plan.

The 2012 Master Plan is proposing radical re-engineering of the lower river and a return to natural delta building processes on a grand scale, with about 50% of the river in flood diverted above Venice. It is also proposing to make hard choices based upon realistic projections-not making pie in the sky promises about fixing all problems. The future is still grim: hundreds of square miles will be lost over the next fifty years. But for the first time the state is proposing a plan that will result in net annual land gain in future decades, depending upon how much money is spent towards implementation. Even with relatively high sea level rise scenarios, we can turn the corner from annual land loss to gain in the lifetimes of some of us-this based upon the most sophisticated modeling effort yet undertaken. Getting back what we’ve lost and will lose (3,000 square miles) is centuries in the future, but changing the trend line is now possible.

The decision to pursue large scale diversions is huge! Imagine hundreds of square miles of the kind of habitat that is now limited to the Bird's Foot and the Atchafalaya and Wax Lake deltas, and you understand how important this is for wildlife and birds in particular.

Many have pushed for mechanical marsh creation as an alternative to diversion because salinities can be maintained. The planning team addressed that by including nearly $18 billion worth of such projects in the plan. But their modeling showed that such projects are doomed long term without freshwater introduction, and that land building through natural processes is many, many times more cost effective than mechanical marsh creation. Over fifty years, diversions at a cost of $4-5 billion will build more land than will $17-18 billion of mechanical marsh creation with pipeline sediment delivery.

After public review and revision, the CPRA unanimously approved the 2012 Coastal Master Plan on March 21, 2012. The Louisiana Legislature unanimously approved the 2012 Coastal Master Plan on May 22, 2012.

To view or download the 2012 master plan, go to: http://www.coastalmasterplan.la.gov/


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