COASTAL CRISIS - LAND LOSS
All this costs money, lots of it. The average annual loss to present property owners along the coast is $50 million; all due to erosion. At current enrollment rates, the National Flood Insurance Program will pay $10 million a year for damage caused by erosion. Nationally, over the next sixty years, one out of every four homes within 500 feet of the shoreline will be lost to erosion.
Jobs are also impacted. Tourism is a big source of income for many shoreline states. In 1997, tourism expenditures topped $185 billion dollars. If the beach is eroded or polluted and dirty, the tourists will stay away. Commercial fishermen are hurt by loss of fish habitats and may be forced out of business. Many oil and shipping companies find it more expensive to do business
Nature is also affected by what people do. Conservation is the nature being protected by wise humans. Conservation comes from two Latin words con, which means together and servare, which means to keep, or to guard. If humans didn't help protect nature some animals or plants might be destroyed.
Importance of the Louisiana Coast:
1. Culture - Over two million people live in Louisiana’s coastal zone, and the wetlands are an integral part of life for many residents. The wetlands provide the setting for the region’s primary economic activities, such as navigation and oil and gas production. In addition, the cultural impact of the ecosystem can be traced to traditions of music, food, and living off the land that continue to this day. Much of what gives Louisiana its unique heritage finds its roots in the coast.
2. Fisheries - Each year, Louisiana’s commercial and recreational fishing industries contribute $3.5 billion and over 40,000 jobs to the state’s economy (Southwick Associates, 1997). Approximately 21% of the fish harvested by weight in the lower 48 states comes from Louisiana’s coastal zone (USDOC, 2007). The annual economic impact of recreational fishing can amount to between $895 million (LDWF, 2005) and $1.2 billion (Gentner et al, 2001).
3. Habitat - Louisiana’s wetlands provide habitats for thousands of plant and animal species. The intrinsic value of these lands as a haven for wildlife is felt by all who visit, and as such, the wetlands represent a precious aspect of our nation’s natural heritage. In addition, hiking, bird watching, photography, and camping in south Louisiana contribute more than $220 million annually to Louisiana’s economy (Coreil, 1994).
4. Navigation - Louisiana’s coast is a national hub for navigation. Nearly 3,000 miles of deep and shallow-draft channels are located in the wetlands (Waldemar S. Nelson & Company, 2002). Five of the nation’s 15 largest ports are located in south Louisiana, and these facilities carry 18% of all waterborne commerce by tonnage in the United States each year (USACE, 2007).
5. Oil & Gas - More than 80% of the nation’s offshore oil and gas is produced off Louisiana’s coast, and 25% of the nation’s foreign and domestic oil comes ashore on Louisiana roads and waterways. The coastal zone also contains the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port; over 43,000 oil and gas wells; two storage sites for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve; and the Henry Hub, one of the nation’s major natural gas distribution centers. Louisiana has 3,819 vendors and equipment suppliers in 165 different communities to service this array of infrastructure. These suppliers received an estimated $2.4 billion in oil and gas related business in 1992 (Waldemar S. Nelson & Company, 2002).
6. Storm Protection - Every 2.7 miles of wetlands may absorb an average of one foot of storm surge (USACE, 1963). Louisiana’s wetlands thus create a natural buffer zone on which all of the infrastructure and communities located in the coastal zone depend. Using one estimate, the coast’s 2.5 million acres of wetlands have annual storm protection values of between $520 million and $2.2 billion (Costanza, Farber, and Maxwell, 1989).
7. Water Quality & Agriculture - The Mississippi River Basin terminates in Louisiana’s coastal zone, bringing with it nutrient rich runoff from 31 states and two Canadian provinces. Today, levees channel most of this runoff into the Gulf of Mexico. Before the levees were built, however, Louisiana’s wetlands filtered many of these sediments and nutrients, converting them into biologically useful materials. This purification function has an estimated mean value of $325 per acre per year (Waldemar S. Nelson & Company, 2002).
The wetlands of Louisiana are disappearing at a high rate. Every 38 minutes, a football field sized parcel of Louisiana's wetlands is taken over by water. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that if present trends continue, the state will have lost 2,400 square miles of land between 1932 and 2050 (USGS, 2003). That’s an area about 25 times the size of Washington, D.C. Across the region, communities are being threatened, jobs are being lost, and habitats are vanishing.
The loss of Louisiana’s coastal wetlands is one of the most serious environmental problems facing the country today. Louisiana boasts more than 4 million acres of wetlands, representing 40% of the nation’s total. These wetlands are among the world’s most diverse and productive ecosystems.