Louisiana’s estuaries, barrier islands, and vast coastal wetlands are critical to the ecological and economic productivity of the northern Gulf of Mexico. Over the last 7,000 years, the nation’s largest river – the Mississippi – built 6.2 million acres of swamps, barrier islands, and marshes: the Mississippi River Delta and the Chenier Plain to the west. Unfortunately, short-sighted management of the river for navigation and flood control, combined with decades of marsh-destroying oil and gas development, have resulted in the loss of 1.2 million acres of coastal land since the 1930s.
And the devastation continues: On average, Louisiana loses an area of land the size of a football field every 100 minutes.
Even in its current diminished state, the Mississippi River Delta remains one of America’s great landscapes. An estimated 100 million birds can be found in the state annually, many of them migrating through en route to wintering grounds in Central or South America. Louisiana’s vast coastal area generates around $2 billion annually in revenues from hunting, recreational fishing and wildlife watching. The state’s commercial fisheries – valued at nearly $3 billion per year – provide seafood for markets across the U.S.
The projects included here are major components of Louisiana’s 2017 Coastal Master Plan, the state’s official blueprint for coastal restoration and storm risk reduction that factors together evolving science, environmental conditions and predictions and extensive public input.
Grouped within five estuarine basins along coastal Louisiana, the projects selected here were identified by our experts and partners with Restore the Mississippi River Delta as the most beneficial to the long-term sustainability of coastal Louisiana’s entire ecosystem.
Our priority projects encompass a wide variety of project types, including sediment and freshwater diversions, hydrologic restoration, marsh creation and ridge restoration, barrier island restoration and oyster reef restoration.
In total, Louisiana will receive more than $7 billion dollars that can be used for restoration as a result of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Half of these funds have already been awarded or committed to projects in the Coastal Master Plan, including rebuilding barrier islands, restoring marshes, recreating more natural water flow patterns, and, most importantly, sediment diversions through river levees to build new wetlands and sustain existing marshes. The remaining money will become available over the next 15 years.