Economic Research Reveals How Crucial Fast Action is to Coastal Restoration

05.29.2024 | In Press Releases

Timing of coastal restoration projects effects sustainability, economic impact, and overall effectiveness

NEW ORLEANS (May 29, 2024) A new policy brief released today highlights research showing that coordinating and prioritizing how the state of Louisiana times investments in coastal restoration is a critical element in planning and implementing projects to maximize their benefits. The policy brief, “Investment Decisions for Coastal Restoration: Timely Actions, Sustainable Benefits,” was conducted by the Kathleen Babineaux Blanco Public Policy Center at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and commissioned by Restore the Mississippi River Delta.

“This research confirms that investment in coastal restoration in the context of a changing environment is extremely time-sensitive,” said Simone Maloz, campaign director of Restore the Mississippi River Delta. “Maintaining an aggressive implementation schedule for our Coastal Master Plan is of utmost importance, as it maximizes both the benefits of projects and the return on our investment. Sadly the reverse is also true: every day we delay implementing key restoration projects is a loss for our coast.”

The policy brief concludes that initiating beneficial projects sooner yields greater social benefits for the ecosystem services generated from restoration efforts—namely the protection provided to communities from storm surge, the support to fisheries, the enhancements to culture and social wellbeing, and the boost to local, regional, and state economies inextricably tied to the state’s coastal wetlands.

“The ecosystem services of Louisiana’s coast encompass both monetary and non-monetary values,” said Dr. Stephen Barnes, executive director of the Blanco Public Policy Center. “The buffering services our wetlands provide against storm surge for communities, assets, and infrastructure carry a tremendous economic value—up to $4.6 billion in avoided losses directly from land loss; nearly $10 billion in losses from economic disruptions from land loss; and as much as $176.4 billion in direct damages and $67.7 billion in lost economic activity from storm surge. Fisheries and outdoor recreation represent two other important industries that depend heavily on healthy coastal ecosystems and accelerating implementation for projects with net positive ecosystem benefits can amplify the public benefits generated by those projects.”

Coastal ecosystems in Louisiana are subject to sea level rise and subsidence, both of which may impact the effectiveness of coastal restoration. The ecological health of coastal Louisiana is experiencing declining trends influenced by both human activities and natural factors.

The report’s conclusions are particularly relevant to large-scale projects like the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion. The project is currently at a standstill, with recent reports signaling the state could lose nearly $1 billion if the project is cancelled.

“Postponing the implementation of the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion Project by a decade, shifting it from 2025 to 2035, could lead to a roughly 40% reduction in the land gained from the diversion by 2100, factoring in for dynamic system changes like sea level rise,” said MRD’s Maloz. “We have no time left to lose, as every single day we lose another 19 acres of vital coastal wetlands. It is imperative to keep implementing restoration projects as efficiently as possible and to continue the progress we’ve made over recent decades.”

“Because of sea level rise and subsidence, implementing projects sooner provides a greater long term value,” said Dr. Anna Osland, director of research at the Blanco Public Policy Center. “Delaying restoration projects not only postpones the benefits to ecosystems and communities, but also diminishes those potential benefits. To get the most from these projects we need to consider the dynamics of coastal ecosystems, the timing of our investments, and how changes to the implementation timeframe impacts benefits received by our communities.”

The policy brief, a review of published papers and reports about the discounted value of ecosystem services, suggests that timely investment in ecosystem restoration which prevents or mitigates ecological degradation or resource depletion appears to be not only “profitable” but also “high-yielding.”

Overall, the policy brief found that postponing financial assistance for coastal restoration efforts aimed at preserving coastal land could result in ineffective investments due to significant reductions in ecosystem benefits and the long-term returns from starting projects sooner are more valuable than those occurring later.

To read the policy brief “Investment Decisions for Coastal Restoration: Timely Actions, Sustainable Benefits” click here.

Media Contact:
Annie Matherne

About Restore the Mississippi River Delta
Restore the Mississippi River Delta is working to protect people, wildlife and jobs by reconnecting the river with its wetlands. As our region faces the crisis of land loss, we offer science-based solutions through a comprehensive approach to restoration. Composed of conservation, policy, science and outreach experts from Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society, the National Wildlife Federation, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and Pontchartrain Conservancy, we are located in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Washington, D.C.; and around the United States. Learn more at and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.