2017 Coastal Master Plan
The 2017 Coastal Master Plan contains 79 restoration projects to be implemented over the next 50 years. In order to prioritize these projects, our coalition has developed this recommended list of 17 projects that should be implemented in the near term to build and maintain our critical coastal land.
Our technical staff created a robust evaluation process which could be applied to all the projects in the Master Plan. The results from this analysis helped inform our final priority project list.
Project Synergies: Working Together to Maximize Restoration and Protection
To address Louisiana’s land loss crisis, we need projects working together to create “synergies,” or benefits achieved by two or more projects working in tandem.
A prime example of a project synergy is the relationship between sediment diversions and marsh creation projects.
Sediment diversions and marsh creation projects each have their own unique benefits. Marsh creation projects can build land fairly quickly, but these projects are costly and, without a regular replenishment of sediment, these created marshes will begin to sink and erode. On the other hand, sediment diversions may take longer to build land, but will provide a necessary source of sediment that will build and maintain land over time.
Marsh creation projects will degrade over time largely due to subsidence and sea level rise. When paired together, sediment diversions provide valuable sediment to the surface of the marsh that helps the marsh combat these degrading forces and increase the sustainability of these wetlands. This synergy between sediment diversion and marsh creation projects can add years to the life of man-made marshes and accelerate the land-building process from both projects.
Restoring a Naturally Functioning and Sustainable Delta
The technical team evaluated each basin for the suite of projects that achieved the greatest long-term benefits, while also favoring projects that use the river as a resource to build and maintain land and improve the health of the entire ecosystem. Similar to how Louisiana’s Coastal Master Plan evaluates projects, the team decided reestablishing natural processes or historic conditions is a cornerstone to improving the health of an entire basin. This is important, as the estuary where the Mississippi River meets the Gulf of Mexico is one of the most productive in the world.
Protecting Habitats with Natural Landscape Features
Landscape features such as natural levees, ridges, distributaries, barrier islands and landbridges help dictate how habitat types are distributed throughout the basin and can be key to maintaining the integrity of an estuary. For instance, barrier islands in Barataria Basin provide protection to the marshes from erosion by waves and storm surge. Without these features, wetland loss rates in the basin would increase dramatically.
Advancing Coastal Restoration in the Face of Climate Change
Coastal Louisiana is not a static landscape. It includes very different regions and ecosystems in constant states of flux. In areas dominated by the influence of the river, land builds. In areas dominated by the influence of the sea, land erodes. A future for coastal Louisiana without large-scale restoration would result in victory by the sea and the near complete loss of the region’s ecologically and economically diverse and significant coastal areas.