World Wetlands Day 2018: #KeepUrbanWetlands
Today is World Wetlands Day! The theme this year, “Wetlands for a Sustainable Urban Future,” hits very close to home. After all, New Orleans is a coastal city! Our surrounding wetlands create a vital line of defense against storm surge and rising seas.
To celebrate World Wetlands Day, keep reading to learn a little more about our critical wetlands and what you can do to protect them.
Is New Orleans really a coastal city?
Our coast loses a football field of wetlands every 100 minutes, and Orleans Parish alone is on track to lose an additional 32% of its land mass over the next 50 years if we do not take action. If nothing is done to curb coastal land loss, total physical damage in the New Orleans region could be as high as $1.7 billion in 50 years. These physical damages could lead to annual losses of 9,000 jobs and $568 million in wages.
To learn more about New Orleans as a coastal city, listen to our podcast chat with Arthur Johnson, Chief Executive Officer of the Lower 9th Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development:
Where are our “Urban Wetlands”?
Being a coastal city, New Orleans is surrounded by wetlands. But the area that you may be familiar with lies at the end of Caffin Avenue in the Lower Ninth Ward—the Bayou Bienvenue Wetland Triangle. This area makes up 400 acres of the 30,000 acre Central Wetlands Unit, where Bayou Bienvenue begins to snake along the wetlands that make up the border of Orleans and St. Bernard Parishes and eventually ends in Lake Borgne. Once a thriving cypress swamp, most of this area has turned to open water; but the community and coastal advocates continue to fight for restoration of the Wetland Triangle and the surrounding ecosystem. To learn more about these urban wetlands, check out our blog, “Service Day at the Bayou Bienvenue Wetland Triangle.”
How do wetlands protect New Orleans?
Wetlands essentially serve as natural sponges, buffering communities against storm surge and slowing the speed of floodwaters. Wetlands near urban areas also have the benefit of absorbing water runoff and distributing it across the floodplain. As the wetlands disappear, so does the natural protection it provides our communities. Large-scale restoration projects, along with coastal protection and community resiliency measures, are our best solutions for reducing land loss and protecting our communities and cities.
In addition to protecting us from environmental factors, saving Louisiana’s vanishing coast is driving economic expansion and creating new jobs. The water management sector – which includes coastal restoration, coastal protection and urban water management – is the #1 driver of jobs in southeast Louisiana. Coastal restoration and protection is not only the biggest job creator in coastal Louisiana, but it also has some of the highest-paying jobs, averaging $69,277 per year.
Priority projects benefiting New Orleans’ urban wetlands: