Hurricane Harvey and Katrina Anniversary Remind Us of Urgent Need for Coastal Restoration

08.29.2017 | In Hurricanes & Oil Spills
By Amanda Moore, Deputy Director, Mississippi River Delta Restoration Program, National Wildlife Federation

Like most Americans, our hearts are with our neighbors in Texas and Louisiana who are experiencing the impacts of Hurricane Harvey. The current focus is on rescue efforts, and we hope that everyone remains safe during this time.

In Louisiana, we know all too well the toll that a storm can take on a place and its citizens. Twelve years ago today, Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf coast. Watching Hurricane Harvey unfold brings back memories all too familiar to those who flooded during Katrina, Rita or more recently in the 2016 Baton Rouge flooding. As we take time to remember Hurricane Katrina this week and begin reaching out to Harvey’s victims, we must also look to the future and commit to preparing for the next storm by better protecting ourselves.

Recovery and rebuilding remain an everyday reality in coastal Louisiana. For people living in coastal communities, from New Orleans to Lake Charles, protection from barrier islands, wetlands, levees, and home elevation are crucial as they provide our homes and businesses with multiple lines of defense from storms like Harvey, Katrina and Rita. 

Levees and home elevation are some of the more immediate ways to protect ourselves, but these measures work best when part of the multiple lines of defense strategy that includes restoration of our natural storm protection along the coast.

Lopez, John A., 2006, The Multiple Lines of Defense Strategy to Sustain Coastal Louisiana, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation.

For example, wetlands serve as a buffer for levees, reducing wave energy and the chance of over-topping, thereby reducing the chance that levees will fail. But the marshes, ridges and barrier islands that reduce waves and storm surge are disappearing at an alarming rate – we lose one football field of wetlands every 100 minutes in Louisiana.

That statistic stings the most when storms are brewing in the Gulf. Our communities need the protection of a healthy and resilient coast, and getting there will take the support of all who care about the future of our region.

Looking Ahead

Since Katrina, the state has made significant progress through the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority in both advancing large-scale restoration and risk reduction efforts. However, there is a long road ahead. Louisiana’s legislature just unanimously passed the 2017 Coastal Master Plan, and there are many priority restoration and protection projects that need to be advanced.

Louisiana’s Coastal Master Plan is grounded in science, balances coastal restoration with protection, and is publicly-informed. The master plan provides a model for how we can adapt to land loss, rising seas, increased storms and other climate change challenges.  The next step is implementing projects that will help us achieve the vision laid out in the plan of a more sustainable coast and more resilient communities.

The urgency of implementation must match the urgency of the coastal crisis we face.

Help Support the Victims of Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey will continue to impact the Gulf coast for days to come. As the storm shifts eastward, we in Louisiana are not fully out of the clear ourselves as our region is expected to get heavy rain and possible tornados over the coming days. Make sure you and your family have a plan for disaster response by going to GetAGamePlan.org.

Even once the floodwaters have receded and cameras are gone, the recovery from this storm may take years, and the people of Houston and across Texas will still need our help. See a list of organizations here that you can support to get relief, supplies and more to those affected by Harvey.  

Your Voice is Needed on a Critical Restoration Project for Louisiana's Coast

Right now, we have an important opportunity to show support for restoration. As the State of Louisiana and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) move forward with the permitting process for the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion – one of the most important restoration projects in the Coastal Master Plan – your voice is needed.

Please speak up today to urge the Corps to act swiftly and get the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion under construction as quickly as possible!