Every 3.8 to 4.3 miles of wetlands reduce storm surges by an average of 1 foot, for the state of Louisiana this fact is a very important one when you consider that its coastline is one of the most hurricane prone regions in the United States. The wetlands provide a natural barrier that absorbs surging water during storms. That barrier can be the difference between land that survives a storm, and land that is destroyed by it. Even though wetlands may not be able to protect against major hurricanes such as Katrina it can slow the water flowing into populated areas. The importance of these wetlands is obvious when you consider that they help protect a coast line that’s infrastructure is valued at over 96 billion dollars, most of which goes towards the nations need of energy, navigation and fisheries. Louisiana has 5 of the one the busiest ports in the U.S. and is and important part of the U.S economy. The energy facilities located in Louisiana control and move more the 26% of the nations natural gas and crude oil. Southern Louisiana ports carry over 21 % of shipping by boats and 57% of grain exports, if the wetlands didn’t exist the canals that these ships use would be unprotected and easily destroyed by storm surges, and hurricanes. The protection of these canals by the wetlands ensures the flow of goods to and from the U.S. markets, and directly affects thousands of jobs and services throughout the entire country. It seems that something as important and the wetlands should be protected; however during the 20th century coastal Louisiana has lost over 1.2 million acres of wetlands.
This dramatic loss and land is caused by a number of problems that are a combination between human interference and natural changes in the ecosystem. Its almost impossible to determine how much each of these factors contributes to the loss of the land, because human interference can be a slow build up or an accumulation after years, and other effects like storm damages can happen over night destroying hundreds of acres of land. An example of man’s interference is that when the Mississippi built the wetlands, its yearly floods pushed water and sediments across southern Louisiana that created its own ecosystem, but in the last century the rivers flooding has been contained by man made levee’s and the water and sediment that continued to build the wetlands is pushed into the Gulf of Mexico, and the wetlands no longer are getting a renewal of the nutrients that allow them to be sustainable, and the wetlands are converting to open water. An example of storm damages would be the obvious choice of hurricane Katrina. Estimates from the U.S Geological Survey suggest that 75,520 acres of marshland along Louisiana’s coast were shredded or sunk. Exposing the areas to more effects to any following storms.
As a result of this drastic rate of loss if it isn’t reduced this critical energy infrastructure may be damaged or destroyed the loss of wetlands leaves pipelines, offshore oil supports, and any other facilities built for inland use will be exposed to open water and storm surges that could potentially destroy them. Another problem is that this land that we are so rapidly losing is breeding ground for fish and shell fish, when the land turns into open water, you lose the fish population causing the commercially important fisheries stock to plummet.
The CWPPRA or the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act that congress passed in 1990 have been the main protection and defense of the wetlands. It has been Louisiana’s main tool for responding and trying to fix the wetland loss, the program tries to make awareness by emphasizing practical benefits to the human population, and still supporting the economic uses of the wetlands. Some of their restoration techniques include: Vegetation planting, river diversions, hydrologic restoration, marsh creation, shoreline protection, sediment trapping, and stabilization of barrier islands.
My project is based on this overwhelming knowledge that we are losing these lands that have such and huge effect on the entire nation not just the state of Louisiana. My goal of this project was to show that these lands are beautiful, and serene, but they have a huge importance, and that the rapid loss of them will be very damaging if nothing is done to stop their deterioration.