Reyher: Lafayette Has a Lot to Lose from Coastal Erosion

(Photo: ASSOCIATED PRESS)

If you think that Lafayette and our surrounding parishes have no stake in coastal land loss, think again.

While the imminent risk of land loss is well known across parishes that border the Gulf, the economic consequences reach far beyond those areas hit with the first storm waves.

A new LSU study shows that if we take no action to curb land loss, the state could lose as much as $3.6 billion in homes, businesses and other infrastructure over the next 50 years. For the Lafayette area, that could mean $140 million in replacement costs for houses, office buildings and other infrastructure and $390 million in business disruptions, according to LSU’s Economics & Policy Research Group and the non-profit Environmental Defense Fund.

Fortunately, the state has an answer for protecting and restoring coastal lands in Vermilion and Iberia parishes, as well as our inland communities in Lafayette, Acadia, St. Landry and St. Martin parishes that need the protection of those wetlands. The 2017 Coastal Master Plan now under consideration by the Louisiana Legislature prioritizes a list of $50 billion in coastal restoration and risk-reduction actions to address Louisiana’s increasingly severe land loss and sea level rise. The plan includes marsh creation and shoreline and levee protections in our inland parishes.

The plan is based on the best science available. It updates the state’s existing Coastal Master Plan approved in 2012 and balances coastal restoration and protection. And, it is realistic about the challenges we face.

Louisiana has already invested billions of dollars to rebuild barrier islands and marshes and to strengthen levees under our current Master Plan. We’ve made real progress since Hurricanes Lili, Rita and Ike. But it’s simply not enough.

We must act to secure a strong, safe and productive future for the people, industries and wildlife of coastal Louisiana. As seas continue to rise and land continues to sink, we need to put our existing resources to work wisely—and quickly—to maintain as much as possible of the Louisiana we all know and love.

The most important action our legislators can take this year to protect our communities, jobs, economies and the way of life we treasure for our children and grandchildren, is to approve the 2017 Coastal Master Plan.

— Kimberly Davis Reyher is executive director of the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana

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