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Drawing Louisiana's New Map: Addressing Land Loss in Coastal Louisiana (2006)

Chapter:3 Conflicts and Limitations to Achieving Goals

« Previous: 2 The Historic and Existing Louisiana Coastal Systems
Suggested Citation:"3 Conflicts and Limitations to Achieving Goals." National Research Council. 2006. Drawing Louisiana's New Map: Addressing Land Loss in Coastal Louisiana. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11476.
×

3
Conflicts and Limitations to Achieving Goals

HIGHLIGHTS

This chapter

  • Reviews the social and political constraints that the efforts outlined in the Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA), Louisiana—Ecosystem Restoration Study (LCA Study) will likely encounter

  • Examines the role of area size and associated sediment delivery costs to counter subsidence

  • Discusses activities within the Mississippi River watershed that contribute to land loss in Louisiana

Saving Louisiana’s coastal region is a very complex and—in planning parlance—a “wicked” problem (see Chapter 5). The actions that must be taken to restore the coastal area will have to be bold, massive, costly, and continuing. The projects will challenge the technology capabilities of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, and the local parish governments to balance competing interests. The inherent nature of the solutions being proposed will come into conflict with the ways things are being done now. This chapter explores these challenges.

Suggested Citation:"3 Conflicts and Limitations to Achieving Goals." National Research Council. 2006. Drawing Louisiana's New Map: Addressing Land Loss in Coastal Louisiana. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11476.
×

LAND LOSS PATTERNS AND PROPOSED SEDIMENT DISTRIBUTION

Land loss is ubiquitous, occurring both in interior areas and on the edges of water bodies, including the Gulf of Mexico. Any solution approaching a large-scale or optimal restoration will encounter conflicts with navigation, flood control, oil and gas, and other land uses on the one hand and the need for large-scale redistribution of Mississippi River freshwater and sediment on the other. One of the most dramatic and long-term examples of this conflict is the dam placed across the Bayou Lafourche distributary in 1904 as a flood protection measure for Donaldsonville, Louisiana. While fulfilling its authorized purpose to prevent flooding in the city, it also reduced the natural flows of freshwater and sediments to the Barataria and Terrebonne Basins. Prior to dam construction, flows amounting to approximately 15 percent of the Mississippi River flows (Kesel, 2003) had nourished the wetlands and maintained elevations relative to sea level rise (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 2004a). According to the report of the Governor’s Office of Coastal Activities Science Advisory Panel Workshop (Gagliano, 1994), Terrebonne and Barataria Basins each lost almost 30 square kilometers (km2) per yr (11.6 square miles [mi2] per yr) between 1978 and 1990.

Thus, flood control contributes to land loss, and reversing this land loss will require reflooding the area in order to preserve human habitation and agricultural productivity. Because of the extent of observed land loss across the entire Louisiana coastal area, it is clear that the constraints of existing development and the need for a minimum amount of water in the Mississippi River will limit the amount and location of any restoration. An accepted constraint of the LCA Study is that the Mississippi River switching, as would occur under natural conditions, will not be allowed. Also, the minimum Mississippi River flows must be sufficiently large so that the industrial and municipal water supply for New Orleans can be maintained (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 2004a).

An average subsidence of 0.25 centimeters (cm) per yr (0.1 inches [in] per yr) results in an annual volumetric deficit of 75 million cubic meters (m3) (98 million cubic yards [yd3]). For stability to be maintained, this volume must be replaced by a combination of siliciclastic and organic matter. Considering two ratios of siliciclastic to total matter (1:10 and 1:4), the two associated annual volumes of mineral sediment required are 75 million m3 (98 million yd3) and 18.8 million m3 (24.6 million yd3). Annual delivery costs, if distributed over the entire coastal area, would be $450 million and $1.13 billion, respectively, based on an average slurry pump distance of 120 kilometers (km) (74.6 miles [mi]) and a cost of $0.50 per m3/km ($1.05 per yd3/mi). The volumes of siliciclastic sediment range

Suggested Citation:"3 Conflicts and Limitations to Achieving Goals." National Research Council. 2006. Drawing Louisiana's New Map: Addressing Land Loss in Coastal Louisiana. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11476.
×

from 6 to 14 percent of the total combined suspended sediment delivered by the two rivers and, thus, appear feasible. However, the delivery costs indicate that adequate sediment delivery needed to balance subsidence can likely be accomplished by artificial means (pipeline transport) but only to a portion of the subsiding area. It is emphasized that these costs do not include rights of way, delays, or costs due to legal challenges. This underscores the need for the LCA Study to identify, at an early stage, those projects that can be undertaken successfully; to convey this information to the general public; and to establish reasonable expectations for accomplishments. The LCA Study also needs to focus on large-scale delivery of sediments by natural means, such as the Third Delta, to help capture economies of scale and minimize cost. (See Chapter 6 for additional discussion of the Third Delta.)

Land Building Versus Restoration

The concept of restoring a wetland to some vegetative status and function of an earlier time is contrary to recognizing the coast as a dynamic system, and the landscape is always changing under natural conditions. Restoration could also be used in the dynamic or rate-of-change sense. In this case, a wetland could be deemed “restored” if the rate of land loss (or gain) was put back to that of some earlier time. Obviously, it would take many more small diversions, such as those typically carried out under the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act (CWPPRA), to “restore” southern Louisiana if that means replacing the more than 4,920 km2 (1,900 mi2) that have been lost over the past century rather than reducing or eliminating the current rate of land loss. Since wetland functions would be restored and not the wetland itself, using the word “restoration” throughout the LCA Study invites misinterpretation and can create public expectations that are not attainable. If restoration implies recreation of land, where and when become key questions.

Inhabited Areas Versus Need to Increase Elevation to Counter Subsidence

The entire coastal Louisiana area is subsiding, although at various rates in different regions. Without substantial engineering, continued subsidence and sea level rise will make much of the southern delta uninhabitable at some future time. An alternative, short-term solution would be to build ring levees; another would be to raise all local buildings. The only long-term solution seems to be to abandon these areas and find alternate sites for residents. These solutions are up against geologic time scales in the building, abandonment, and disappearance of deltas. Humans try to

Suggested Citation:"3 Conflicts and Limitations to Achieving Goals." National Research Council. 2006. Drawing Louisiana's New Map: Addressing Land Loss in Coastal Louisiana. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11476.
×

fix things on human time scales. There appears to be a need to adjust problem solvers’ thinking to the reality of longer-term natural processes.

STAKEHOLDERS WITH CONFLICTING INTERESTS

There have been large-scale efforts to promote public participation during the development of Coast 2050: Toward a Sustainable Coastal Louisiana (Coast 2050) (65 meetings with 1,756 total attendees). All 20 parishes in the Louisiana coastal area passed resolutions of support for Coast 2050. With this in mind, the LCA Study’s planning documents and programmatic environmental impact statement have noted the concerns of different interest groups.

Navigation Versus Restoration: The Example of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet

The Mississippi River is an important waterway for shipping goods into and out of the U.S. heartland. Shipping lanes of coastal Louisiana are a vital link between producers and consumers throughout the world. A complex of deep draft ports includes the Port of South Louisiana, which handles more tonnage than any other port in the nation, and the most active segment of the nation’s Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. The principal commodities moving on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway include chemicals, petroleum products, and crude oil. The Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO) was excavated in 1963 to shorten the trip from the Gulf of Mexico to New Orleans docks by five hours and to bring economic development to eastern New Orleans and St. Bernard Parish docks. However, in 2003, MRGO averaged 5.2 ship passages per day (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 2003b). USACE let maintenance dredging contracts in 2003 for more than $22.8 million, representing a cost of $12,000 per ship passage that year (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 2003c).

Also, MRGO has resulted in tremendous environmental damage, including saltwater intrusion, land loss, and worsening the effects of wave damage during hurricanes and storms. In the past 40 years, erosive forces have caused MRGO to increase in width from the initial 182.9 meters (m) (600 feet [ft]) to 609.6 m (2,000 ft) (an average of 10.7 m per yr [35.1 ft per yr]), causing a land loss of more than 81 km2 (31.3 mi2). MRGO may also pose an increased storm surge threat (Tardo, 2003; Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, 2005).1

1  

At the time of this writing, some speculation about the role MRGO may have played in enhancing the storm surge during Hurricane Katrina and subsequent flooding of St. Bernard Parish had been put forward. What is known is that the levee that separates MRGO from St. Bernard Parish was topped during Katrina, as predicted in advance by some storm surge models.

Suggested Citation:"3 Conflicts and Limitations to Achieving Goals." National Research Council. 2006. Drawing Louisiana's New Map: Addressing Land Loss in Coastal Louisiana. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11476.
×

In 2000, a plan to modify MRGO by halting the channel maintenance dredging and thereby eliminating deep draft vessels was proposed by the environmental subcommittee of the MRGO Policy Committee. The channel would be open to recreational boaters and commercial fishing vessels and would have a projected depth of 3.7 m (12 ft), which is considerably less than the present 11 m (36 ft) (both below mean low Gulf of Mexico datum). In addition, water control structures, including floodgates, locks, weirs, and sills, would be strategically built along MRGO to reduce the potential for saltwater influx into the marshes and bayous from the current MRGO channel, thus reducing the potential for storm surges and saltwater intrusion. This plan was endorsed by the public at the Coast 2050 meetings and has been a part of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation’s comprehensive plan since 1991 (Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, 1995).

The navigation industry might support “closing” MRGO if it could be confident that shipping and barge traffic displaced by the modifications would be accommodated elsewhere (Caffey and Leblanc, 2002). From the industry’s perspective, this means, at a minimum, that the Port of New Orleans would complete the expanded container facilities on the Mississippi River and improve ship access through the Inner Harbor Navigational Canal. The ideal situation for the shipping industry would be construction of the “Millennium Port” (Caffey and Leblanc, 2002). Some groups advocate closing MRGO without further studies.

Oil and Gas

Oil and gas production is very important to the economy of Louisiana. With more than a million production wells drilled in Louisiana and offshore, Louisiana ranks first in the production of crude oil—second only to Texas in the production of natural gas—and supplies roughly one-quarter of the natural gas used in the United States. The direct and indirect impact of the oil and gas industry on the Louisiana economy totals $92.6 billion; it supports more than 341,000 direct and indirect jobs and is responsible for more than $12.2 billion in household earnings (13 percent of total earnings in Louisiana) (Scott, 2002). The oil and gas industry provides nearly one-quarter of total revenues collected by the state. As oil and gas resources within the state have been depleted, the industry has slowly moved offshore, discovering and developing even more significant resources in deep water environments of the prodelta (e.g., the deepest portions of deltaic sedimentary deposits, the prodelta marks the oceanward transition to normal environments of the Gulf of Mexico). In 2003, Louisiana received roughly $29.6 million in revenues (royalties, rents, and bonuses) from the federal government as its share of offshore leases for oil and gas production. In 2001, Louisiana received $40.6 mil-

Suggested Citation:"3 Conflicts and Limitations to Achieving Goals." National Research Council. 2006. Drawing Louisiana's New Map: Addressing Land Loss in Coastal Louisiana. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11476.
×

FIGURE 3.1 The 17 parishes that were part of the socioeconomic analysis in the Coast 2050 programmatic environmental impact statement (background map supplied by Research Planning, Inc.).

lion in revenues from federal offshore mineral leases and $1.4 million in federal onshore leases (Minerals Management Service, 2005). With more than 62,000 onshore wells in 17 parishes (Figure 3.1), Louisiana received roughly $419 million in royalties in 2003 (Table 3.1).

In the development of oil and gas wells, thousands of miles of canals have been cut through the marsh to aid exploration, to sink wells, to install pipelines, and to service the oil and gas industry. In order to restore the marsh areas, most of the canals have to be closed (or plugged) so that saltwater can be prevented from entering the freshwater marshes, creating a continuous marshland area. The filling will be either through diversions from the Mississippi River or by using dredge material from shipping waterways or from offshore. The end result will be reduced access to the oil and gas production wells, a problem that becomes less of an issue as the production from these wells decreases. As discussed earlier, subsidence of the Louisiana coastal area may also be affected by the extraction of oil and gas found below the marshes.

Commercial and Recreational Fishing

Commercial and recreational fishing are two of the most significant industries in the economy of the study area. Excluding Alaska, Louisiana

Suggested Citation:"3 Conflicts and Limitations to Achieving Goals." National Research Council. 2006. Drawing Louisiana's New Map: Addressing Land Loss in Coastal Louisiana. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11476.
×

TABLE 3.1 Louisiana Oil and Gas Profile by Parish in 2003

Parish

Number of Wells

Royalties (dollars)a

Gas Severance (dollars)b

Oil Severance (dollars)b

Assumption

492

2,765,265

1,661,481

2,051,860

Cameron

5,555

23,426,231

9,751,601

11,555,453

Iberia

2,178

11,109,959

1,582,529

17,405,109

Jefferson

1,746

16,872,136

860,236

8,743,873

Lafourche

6,884

25,460,199

5,193,455

30,155,887

Livingston

227

86,598

135,764

559,971

Orleans

8

0

0

822

Plaquemines

25,373

152,323,581

16,486,586

72,066,747

St. Bernard

1,777

56,306,199

10,201,984

3,785,010

St. Charles

901

259,822

419,808

3,100,211

St. James

288

63,599

339,467

356,029

St. John the Baptist

65

0

41,119

166,538

St. Mary

5,533

54,746,858

8,008,321

12,539,741

St. Tammany

4

0

12,345

0

Tangipahoa

18

0

-78,748

1,723

Terrebonne

6,459

55,402,555

15,888,415

59,095,001

Vermilion

4,991

173,900

429,895

2,644,669

Total for these parishes

62,499

398,996,902

70,934,258

224,228,644

Louisiana totals

447,402

419,218,358

152,887,515

323,593,871

Percent of state totals

14

95

46

69

aRoyalties are fees paid to the state from oil and natural gas production taking place on state-owned lands and bottoms of waterways. This amount is negotiated with each lease.

bSeverance tax is collected on oil and gas production within the state and out to the three-mile offshore boundary. It is 12.5 percent of the value of the product.

SOURCE: Data complied from Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association, 2003.

produced the nation’s highest marine commercial fish landings (about $343 million), minus mollusk harvest, such as clams, oysters, and scallops (National Marine Fisheries Service, 2003). Louisiana produced 37 percent of the nation’s oyster needs and 26 percent of the blue crabs in 2001. Shrimp landings in Louisiana were approximately 56,700 metric tons (125 million pounds) during 2001, representing more than 45 percent of the total U.S. landings. Commercial fishing supports approximately 31,400 jobs in Louisiana (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 2004a). In 2001, recreational fishing expenditures in Louisiana were $703 million (U.S. Department of the Interior and U.S. Department of Commerce, 2003). The large expanse of coastal wetlands and estuaries provides support during the critical life stages of important commercial and recreational species. With the change in habitat comes a change in finfish and shellfish species.

As restoration proceeds, the goal is for open water to become saline

Suggested Citation:"3 Conflicts and Limitations to Achieving Goals." National Research Council. 2006. Drawing Louisiana's New Map: Addressing Land Loss in Coastal Louisiana. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11476.
×

marsh and then freshwater marsh; the change in habitat types will result in a change in abundance of finfish and shellfish species or in the geographic range of a particular species. Commercial and recreational fishermen are concerned that the change in the salinity regime associated with a freshwater diversion would cause loss or displacement of current commercially and recreationally valuable fishery species. The diversions may also increase the amount of nutrients supplied to lakes and bays. Increased nutrients create the possibility of algal blooms that contribute to the formation of hypoxic zones.

Mississippi River water and sediments are proposed for use in rebuilding marshes and land. There may be concerns about the quality of these resources (e.g., are they appropriate for use in restoration, are they contaminated) and concerns that the restoration processes may intensify the problems within the receiving areas or adversely affect human health through consumption of contaminated finfish and shellfish.

Recreation and Tourism

The abundance of natural and cultural resources in the Louisiana coastal region supports a diversity of recreational activities. The coastal area serves as a home to thousands of wildlife species that attract individuals for many types of tourism. Along the coast are opportunities for fishing, hunting, boating, swimming, camping, bird watching, crabbing, and crawfishing.

The rich historical and cultural traditions of southern Louisiana give rise to hundreds of local and regional festivals focused on the harvest of rice, sugarcane, shrimp, crawfish, oyster, and alligator. Other festivals celebrate the birds that pass through the state, as well as the Cajun, Native American, African American, and European cultures and heritages of the people. These festivals are economically significant to coastal communities, attracting many noncoastal visitors.

In 2000, 802,000 Louisiana residents and 38,000 nonresidents participated in wildlife watching and spent $168.4 million, and in 2001, hunting expenditures in Louisiana were $466 million (U.S. Department of the Interior and U.S. Department of Commerce, 2003). Overall, people traveling to Louisiana spent approximately $8.1 billion in 2001, supporting more than 113,000 jobs in the state with an annual income of about $1.8 billion. Tax revenues associated with recreation and tourism in Louisiana were about $1.1 billion for all levels of government (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 2004a). With major river diversions flooding areas, other wetland areas closed to entry for replanting, and canals being plugged, there will be an impact on this component of the economy. Tourism activities may change spatially in response to these restrictions, but losses in some areas

Suggested Citation:"3 Conflicts and Limitations to Achieving Goals." National Research Council. 2006. Drawing Louisiana's New Map: Addressing Land Loss in Coastal Louisiana. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11476.
×

may be offset by gains in others, especially in the short run, while all areas may gain in the long run.

Agriculture and Rural Economy

Agriculture in the 20 coastal Louisiana parishes contributes $410.8 million in market value of agricultural crops, or 22.6 percent of Louisiana’s total crop value of $1.8 billion (U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2002). The rich deltaic soil and mild climate are conducive to producing a wide variety of crops. Crops are irrigated with water from local bayous, and with increasing water salinity, crop production has declined.

In the 1850s, there were several hundred farms and sugar plantations along Bayou Lafourche and its neighboring waterways, and the sugar crop, with the improvement of refining techniques, dominated both the economy and the culture of southeastern Louisiana. Most of the large sugar plantations, however, are now located farther up Bayou Lafourche on land that is better drained than the low, marshy, coastal area (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 2003a). The number of farms in the coastal area is decreasing, and in general, the size of the farms is increasing, which suggests that the family farm is disappearing (Table 3.2). The number of farms in the coastal area is decreasing (except in Plaquemines Parish, which is increasing). The population of St. Tammany Parish has increased 48 percent between 1999 and 2004, and Livingston has grown 50 percent in the same period. Both parishes show a decrease in the number of farms; Livingston Parish farms have decreased by 21 percent in size and decreased by 37 percent in average production (Table 3.2). The size of farms in St. Tammany has increased by 10 percent between 1997 and 2002, and the value of the production during that period has decreased by 3 percent. As agriculture declines in importance due to the decline in agricultural production and in the numbers of people employed, agriculture, as an economic sector, will lose political strength, and the focus of land restoration may change from protecting farms to protecting communities.

Today the major crops are still sugarcane (37 percent of the nation’s sugar), rice (20 percent of the nation’s rice), and soybeans. (Where the crop values are high, the largest commodity is sugarcane, and where crop values are low, but subsidies are high, the commodity is generally rice.) Much of this agricultural land is considered prime farmland and protected under the U.S. Farmland Protection Policy Act of 1981 (P.L. 97-98). Optimal wetland restoration benefits may require major river diversions to flood prime agricultural land, and roads needed to transport crops to market could also be impacted.

Since the area around New Orleans is urbanizing, the previously rural areas are decreasing. The proposed projects will have the most impact

Suggested Citation:"3 Conflicts and Limitations to Achieving Goals." National Research Council. 2006. Drawing Louisiana's New Map: Addressing Land Loss in Coastal Louisiana. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11476.
×

TABLE 3.2 Changes in Farming in Louisiana’s Coastal Area

Parish

Number of Farms in 2002

Percentage Change in Farm Number Since 1997

Average Farm Size in 2002 in km2 (mi2 in parentheses)

Percentage Change in Average Farm Size Since 1997

Average Production in 2002 (dollars)

Percentage Change in Average Production Since 1997

Assumption

105

–20

2.5 (1.0)

22

343,231

30

Cameron

409

–16

2.5 (1.0)

16

15,352

–33

Iberia

340

–13

1.3 (0.5)

16

155,064

15

Jefferson

52

–36

30.9 (11.9)

27

32,345

–38

Lafourche

405

–16

1.5 (0.6)

30

66,067

–6

Livingston

451

–6

0.3 (0.1)

–21

155,684

–37

Orleans

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

Plaquemines

192

19

0.7 (0.3)

–27

34,391

4

St. Bernard

24

–31

NA

NA

15,654

50

St. Charles

62

–26

0.6 (0.2)

–44

85,533

37

St. James

69

–14

3.1 (1.2)

31

386,211

14

St. John the Baptist

34

–11

2.6 (1.0)

147

170,345

81

St. Mary

99

–18

3.0 (1.2)

4

358,871

7

St. Tammany

603

–4

0.3 (0.1)

10

20,748

–3

Tangipahoa

1,065

–10

0.4 (0.2)

0

53,275

0

Terrebonne

156

–8

1.4 (0.5)

4

98,230

11

Vermilion

1,116

–10

1.3 (0.5)

17

47,046

–20

NOTE: If no value is given, it was not available (NA).

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2002.

Suggested Citation:"3 Conflicts and Limitations to Achieving Goals." National Research Council. 2006. Drawing Louisiana's New Map: Addressing Land Loss in Coastal Louisiana. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11476.
×

on Jefferson, Lafourche, Livingston, Plaquemines, and St. Bernard Parishes. Livingston’s largest agricultural crop is broilers and other meat-type chickens; Plaquemines biggest crop is oranges, and it has 7,000 head of cattle. St. Bernard has most of its farmland in forage, and Lafourche has 107 km2 (41 mi2) in sugarcane.

Although there is a center of urbanization, the rest of the Louisiana coastal area is rural. Table 3.3 shows how employment is spread among industries in 17 parishes. The diversification of the southern Louisiana economy increased after the local recession of the late 1980s as resources were channeled from the oil and gas industry into other areas, including tourism. However, the table is somewhat deceptive in that a strong dependence on the oil and gas industry still remains.

What is striking about the housing conditions is the large number of mobile homes in Louisiana’s coastal area—a high of 31.5 percent in Plaquemines Parish and a low of 0.3 percent in Orleans Parish. Table 3.4 also illustrates the rural counties’ low number of housing units and high percentage of mobile homes. The suburban counties have a high percentage of owner-occupied housing. There is also a large discrepancy between total housing units and the number of occupied housing units. Orleans, as one might expect, has a higher percentage of rental units than owner-occupied units.

Flood Control and Land Building

Nearly two million Louisiana residents live in the coastal zone, and the culture and socioeconomic structure of the population has evolved to depend on the presence and productivity of wetlands, as well as the flood protection provided by levees. Community and regional growth would not have been possible without construction of an extensive network of levees and floodgates along the Mississippi River for flood protection. For instance, between 1735 and 1927, New Orleans flooded nine times due to levee breaks or crevasses upstream (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 2003a). Numerous lesser flood control and hurricane protection projects have also allowed development. Except for the recent hurricanes, flood losses occurred mainly as a result of rainfall events. These damages increased as development continued, thereby reducing flood storage area while the assets at risk of flood damage became greater. Between 1978 and 2001, a total of $1.08 billion was paid by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for Louisiana flood claims. The majority of damage has taken place in the most densely developed parishes of the coastal area: Orleans and Jefferson.

Diverting river flow to build land and marshes requires breaching levees and flooding areas. The large amount of money—up to 35 percent

Suggested Citation:"3 Conflicts and Limitations to Achieving Goals." National Research Council. 2006. Drawing Louisiana's New Map: Addressing Land Loss in Coastal Louisiana. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11476.
×

TABLE 3.3 Employment Numbers in Coastal Louisiana by Industry in 2000

Parish

Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, Hunting, and Mining

Construction

Manufacturing

Wholesale Trade

Assumption

712

1,411

1,354

173

Cameron

696

470

295

143

Iberia

3,896

2,094

3,042

1,228

Jefferson

4,059

16,353

17,663

9,910

Lafourche

3,066

2,970

4,928

1,295

Livingston

478

6,993

4,880

1,626

Orleans

1,996

9,478

9,925

4,885

Plaquemines

1,211

715

899

368

St. Bernard

563

2,700

3,165

1,350

St. Charles

355

2,136

3,876

999

St. James

201

611

2,012

197

St. John the Baptist

209

1,833

2,719

666

St. Mary

1,781

1,751

2,468

602

St. Tammany

2,265

8,044

6,866

3,551

Tangipahoa

1,516

3,638

4,436

1,568

Terrebonne

4,916

3,248

3,437

1,668

Vermilion

3,435

1,660

1,410

773

Total

31,355

66,105

73,375

31,002

State totals

78,167

145,850

187,499

65,247

Percentage of state totals

40.1

45.3

39.1

47.5

of a project’s total cost—for land purchase and relocation of homes, residences, and businesses reflects the constraints of flooding currently inhabited or agriculturally productive lands (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 2004a). Gaining support from those property owners and business operators who will be adversely impacted by restoration efforts will continue to be a challenge. Continuing discussion with these stakeholders will be even more important as relocation and reconstruction begin in the aftermath of the hurricanes.

Urbanization

The urbanization pattern of coastal Louisiana can be thought of in general terms as a large urbanized area around New Orleans comprising

Suggested Citation:"3 Conflicts and Limitations to Achieving Goals." National Research Council. 2006. Drawing Louisiana's New Map: Addressing Land Loss in Coastal Louisiana. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11476.
×

Retail Trade

Transportation and Warehousing and Utilities

Information

Finance, Insurance, Real Estate, and Rental and Leasing

Professional, Scientific, Management, Administrative, and Waste Management Services

1,127

442

66

398

373

426

396

52

155

206

3,330

1,221

297

1,357

1,637

25,713

12,595

4,601

14,636

21,668

5,193

2,737

577

1,661

1,725

5,295

1,769

809

2,340

2,935

18,864

11,237

4,596

10,677

18,911

1,051

869

59

409

809

3,632

2,037

468

1,989

2,368

2,278

1,747

312

1,055

1,575

708

581

46

308

405

2,335

1,352

277

996

1,365

2,310

1,355

308

962

1,234

11,423

4,308

2,088

6,045

8,880

5,716

1,842

653

1,960

2,176

5,362

2,780

725

1,728

2,462

2,785

1,291

398

1,190

1,169

97,548

48,559

16,332

47,866

69,898

220,343

98,798

36,418

105,353

140,587

44.3

49.1

44.8

45.4

49.7

Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. James, St. John the Baptist, and St. Tammany Parishes. This metropolitan statistical area, as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, had a 2000 population of 1.3 million. Small communities are distributed throughout the area wherever people could find land above the wetlands, known as fastland. Other than the metropolitan statistical area, there are only five cities with a population of more than 10,000 in coastal Louisiana: Thibodaux (14,431), Morgan City (12,703), Hammond (17,639), Houma (32,393), and Abbeville (11,887). The 2000 census lists 100 towns with a population of less than 10,000 people.

Although many parishes have zoning and building permits required for development, few have comprehensive plans. The result of having no comprehensive master plan is that when coastal restoration activities (e.g.,

Suggested Citation:"3 Conflicts and Limitations to Achieving Goals." National Research Council. 2006. Drawing Louisiana's New Map: Addressing Land Loss in Coastal Louisiana. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11476.
×

Parish

Educational, Health, and Social Services

Arts, Entertainment, Recreation, Accommodation, and Food Services

Services

Assumption

1,717

429

329

Cameron

677

269

213

Iberia

4,741

2,079

1,584

Jefferson

41,221

21,705

11,654

Lafourche

7,841

2,012

1,764

Livingston

6,506

2,256

2,224

Orleans

49,315

29,299

10,190

Plaquemines

1,508

812

460

St. Bernard

4,982

2,843

1,445

St. Charles

3,914

1,396

977

St. James

1,527

409

276

St. John the Baptist

2,987

1,461

843

St. Mary

3,409

2,023

1,068

St. Tammany

17,820

7,469

4,360

Tangipahoa

9,796

3,295

2,046

Terrebonne

7,988

3,328

2,193

Vermilion

3,793

1,212

1,032

Total

169,742

82,297

42,658

State totals

402,078

168,593

96,207

Percentage of state totals

42.2

48.8

44.3

SOURCE: Data compiled from U.S. Census Bureau’s 2000 census.

river diversions) begin to take place and homes and businesses are relocated, decisions about where people can relocate will have to be made. Without comprehensive planning, it is possible that the homes or businesses affected may move to an area that is being considered as part of a future project or an area facing greater risk as land loss continues. This would result in inefficient use of funds for infrastructure needs, such as potable water, wastewater disposal, utility construction, and roads. There is a need for parish-level, master land-use plans or even a regional land-use plan that includes input from the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources and USACE regarding their plans for coastal restoration.

The Political Will to Coordinate and Collaborate with Proposed Restoration Projects

To date, there appears to be strong support among state and local governments in favor of the projects proposed in the LCA Study and its

Suggested Citation:"3 Conflicts and Limitations to Achieving Goals." National Research Council. 2006. Drawing Louisiana's New Map: Addressing Land Loss in Coastal Louisiana. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11476.
×

TABLE 3.4 Housing Characteristics in Louisiana’s Coastal Area

Parish

Total Number of Housing Units

Number of Occupied Housing Units

Percentage of Owner-Occupied Units

Percentage of Rental Units

Percentage of Mobile Homes

Percentage of Housing Units Without Access to a Vehicle

Assumption

9,635

8,239

52.7

15.6

30.4

12.6

Cameron

5,336

3,592

49.3

14.1

29.7

6.6

Iberia

27,844

25,381

53.3

26.4

21.3

10.8

Jefferson

187,907

176,234

58.8

36.1

1.9

9.3

Lafourche

35,045

32,057

58.4

21.7

17.8

9.4

Livingston

36,212

32,603

52.5

16.0

32.0

5.0

Orleans

215,091

188,251

39.6

53.3

0.3

27.3

Plaquemines

10,481

9,021

46.5

20.9

31.5

9.6

St. Bernard

26,790

25,123

65.0

25.3

7.9

10.3

St. Charles

17,430

16,422

69.5

18.6

11.0

6.4

St. James

7,605

6,992

64.1

14.2

20.9

10.2

St. John the Baptist

15,532

14,283

69.7

19.0

12.6

9.5

St. Mary

21,650

19,317

52.5

26.0

21.4

13.2

St. Tammany

75,398

69,253

66.2

19.3

11.4

4.4

Tangipahoa

40,794

36,558

46.4

26.0

23.9

10.3

Terrebonne

39,928

35,997

56.6

24.2

17.6

9.2

Vermilion

22,461

19,832

54.5

22.7

20.4

9.4

SOURCE: Data compiled from U.S. Census Bureau’s 2000 census.

Suggested Citation:"3 Conflicts and Limitations to Achieving Goals." National Research Council. 2006. Drawing Louisiana's New Map: Addressing Land Loss in Coastal Louisiana. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11476.
×

predecessors. Further, these entities have demonstrated their understanding of the seriousness of the land loss problem and the need for action. Active grassroots interaction and careful project selection will be required to maintain the present solid governmental will to support wetland restoration. The nature of the political system is such that it will depend on support at the local level. Thus, project design and selection must consider the human element effectively. Early, continuous, and effective stakeholder engagement will be necessary, and project planners will have to recognize that maintenance of the present political will require minimal impact on stakeholders and maximum benefits of wetland restoration.

There are numerous challenges to local government with regard to coastal restoration. The first is overall planning and relocating residences, businesses, and infrastructure to adapt to coastal restoration projects. Funding has been allocated for relocation, and this will help; however, it does not address the problem of how and where to relocate people. A second challenge will be adapting to the ongoing loss of coastal area. It may be that parish governments will simply have to acknowledge that certain areas that continue to subside will have to be abandoned and that they should focus their attention on areas that can be saved. How this decision is made will severely test the political system.

Other Broad Challenges and Opportunities

All of the LCA Study’s planned restoration efforts to reverse the loss of coastal lands are proposed to occur in Louisiana. Sound science focuses on taking a watershed approach to solving water quality and quantity problems (National Research Council, 2004a). Considering the watershed (Figure 3.2), the Mississippi River Basin covers 3.27 million km2 (1.26 million mi2), or 41 percent of the continental United States. The river itself is more than 3,540 km (2,200 mi) long, and it has more than 50 navigable tributaries that comprise about 24,140 km (15,000 mi) of navigable streams (and thousands of miles of unnavigable ones) (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 2001). Activities upstream may be of consequence to the land loss in Louisiana and the hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

A combination of “developments, both natural and man-made, have occurred that have affected the sediment discharge of the river. The developments include earthquakes; enlargement and closure of distributaries; land use changes; channel dredging; sand and gravel mining; and the construction of dams, levees, revetments, dikes, and cutoffs” (Kesel, 1988). Human-built structures have been causal factors influencing the sediment regime of the river since the 1800s. While soil retention and re-

Suggested Citation:"3 Conflicts and Limitations to Achieving Goals." National Research Council. 2006. Drawing Louisiana's New Map: Addressing Land Loss in Coastal Louisiana. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11476.
×

FIGURE 3.2 Mississippi River drainage basin (used with permission from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers).

duction of bank erosion are considered positive by the people and industries upstream of Louisiana, the reduction of available sediment flowing down the Mississippi River directly impacts the land-building and sustenance processes in the deltaic plain. Kesel (1988) found that there has been a decrease in excess of 80 percent in the amount of suspended sediment transported by the lower Mississippi River below Tarbert Landing, Mississippi, from 1851 to 1982.

The upstream landscape was altered by the destruction of riparian forests and wetlands and by greatly increasing drainage efficiency using ditches, buried drainage tiles, and culverts. Wetlands, reduced by 80 percent in the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa, were the critical systems that once helped convert fertilizer nitrate into plant matter and atmospheric nitrogen.

INCREASING THE SUCCESS OF THE LCA STUDY’S IMPLEMENTATION

Achieving a desired state of restoration or level of protection will require balancing a number of natural and anthropogenic processes. Although some of these processes take place over areas much larger than

Suggested Citation:"3 Conflicts and Limitations to Achieving Goals." National Research Council. 2006. Drawing Louisiana's New Map: Addressing Land Loss in Coastal Louisiana. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11476.
×

that covered by the LCA Study, most of the more significant processes operate locally. Understanding how these processes change with time and in response to human activity is, and should be, a major focus of the Science and Technology Program envisioned in the LCA Study.

Given the nature of the Mississippi River Delta, it is understandable that any solution approaching a large-scale or optimal restoration will encounter conflicts between navigation, flood control, oil and gas channels, and other social and economic activities on the one hand and the need for large-scale redistribution of Mississippi River freshwater and sediment on the other. This underscores the need for the LCA Study to identify at an early stage those projects that can be undertaken successfully, to convey this information to the general public, and to establish reasonable expectations for accomplishments. Diverting river water to build land and marshes requires breaching levees and flooding areas. The large amount of money—up to 35 percent of a project’s total cost—for land purchase and relocation of homes, residences, and businesses reflects the reality that currently inhabited or agriculturally productive lands will be flooded. Gaining public acceptance for wetland restoration will be difficult when homes and businesses require relocation or when owners are prevented from reoccupying properties damaged by recent hurricanes that are in areas needed to support restoration efforts.

The LCA Study does not propose any programs that might stem any upper watershed contributors to coastal land loss and hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico. None of the plans proposed have attempted to consider contributing factors outside Louisiana for any projects. If the wetlands of concern are deemed of national significance, the range of solutions should encompass the entire nation or, at a minimum, the entire watershed.

As discussed in Chapter 2, land loss in coastal Louisiana is due to a variety of natural and human-related causes; the role of each causal factor varies with location and time and is not well quantified. High among the causes are relative sea level rise (including high subsidence rates) across broad areas; growth faults; access canals and navigation waterways; channelization of the Mississippi River by levees, causing much of the river-borne sediments to be conveyed to deep water at the terminus of the Birdsfoot Delta; grazing by fur-bearing animals; and processes causing wetlands to erode in some areas and build in others. Some of these individual causative factors encompass both natural and anthropogenic elements. The established interests of maintaining a levee system in which sediment deposition in channels and to adjacent lowlands is reduced are counter to the delivery of freshwater, sediments, and nutrients to areas in need of wetland restoration and maintenance. Restoring the essential and widespread distribution of sediment and freshwater flow, while maintaining stakeholder acceptance of the adverse impacts, will be the

Suggested Citation:"3 Conflicts and Limitations to Achieving Goals." National Research Council. 2006. Drawing Louisiana's New Map: Addressing Land Loss in Coastal Louisiana. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11476.
×

overarching challenge to future comprehensive efforts to realize the vision espoused by Coast 2050.

The natural and anthropogenic processes contributing to net land loss in coastal Louisiana are significant and pervasive and have been operating for decades. Furthermore, because the sediment supply is limited, the affected area is large, and the social, political, and economic impediments are extensive, achieving no net loss may be problematic. By its own analysis, the LCA Study points out that implementing the restoration efforts it proposes would reduce land loss by about 20 percent (from 26.7 km2 per yr [10.3 mi2 per yr] to 22.3 km2 per yr [8.6 mi2 per yr]) at a cost of approximately $18 million per km2 per yr ($47 million per mi2 per yr). Thus, future efforts will have to be more elaborate than those proposed in the LCA Study, or expectations will have to be reduced.

Efforts to restore significant portions of coastal Louisiana would entail changing the current geographic distribution of land, water, and wetland. Land use and infrastructure development (e.g., roads, pipelines, utilities) have changed in response to the changing coastline. The proposed projects will again force change in the way people work, live, and play in the area. One way to deal efficiently with the change is through comprehensive land-use planning that is coordinated with the planned restoration projects.

A survey of local parish governments indicates that all but one of the parishes has a planning department. Only 10 of the 20 parish governments, however, have a comprehensive land-use plan, and at least four of the plans are more than 10 years old. The parishes should develop comprehensive land-use plans in order for there to be orderly and economically efficient relocation of infrastructure, homes, and businesses during coastal restoration (as planned for in the LCA Study). Clearly, effective land-use plans that act in concert with and support a comprehensive restoration effort will require a widely understood and accepted “end state” of restoration efforts.

A number of sociopolitical challenges involving the various stakeholder interests discussed in this chapter will place limitations on what can be achieved through any restoration effort. Louisiana’s coastal restoration plans must acknowledge these limitations prominently and adjust goals and public expectations accordingly. With the certainty that even the most optimistic Louisiana coastal landform of the future will differ from that at present, the emphasis should be on establishing realistic estimates of future landforms and conveying these to stakeholders. Restoration efforts should be focused to maximize targeted ecological, social, and economic benefits while promoting managed retreat in selected regions. This could involve reducing the rate of land loss in key areas and allowing the system to approach natural equilibrium in others.

Suggested Citation:"3 Conflicts and Limitations to Achieving Goals." National Research Council. 2006. Drawing Louisiana's New Map: Addressing Land Loss in Coastal Louisiana. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11476.
×

Future efforts must be more realistic in considering the location patterns of human settlements relative to project locations, including the option of infrastructure depreciation and abandonment. These sociopolitical challenges will be revisited in subsequent chapters as the adaptive management mechanisms currently included in the LCA Study are reviewed.

Suggested Citation:"3 Conflicts and Limitations to Achieving Goals." National Research Council. 2006. Drawing Louisiana's New Map: Addressing Land Loss in Coastal Louisiana. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11476.
×
Page43
Suggested Citation:"3 Conflicts and Limitations to Achieving Goals." National Research Council. 2006. Drawing Louisiana's New Map: Addressing Land Loss in Coastal Louisiana. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11476.
×
Page44
Suggested Citation:"3 Conflicts and Limitations to Achieving Goals." National Research Council. 2006. Drawing Louisiana's New Map: Addressing Land Loss in Coastal Louisiana. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11476.
×
Page45
Suggested Citation:"3 Conflicts and Limitations to Achieving Goals." National Research Council. 2006. Drawing Louisiana's New Map: Addressing Land Loss in Coastal Louisiana. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11476.
×
Page46
Suggested Citation:"3 Conflicts and Limitations to Achieving Goals." National Research Council. 2006. Drawing Louisiana's New Map: Addressing Land Loss in Coastal Louisiana. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11476.
×
Page47
Suggested Citation:"3 Conflicts and Limitations to Achieving Goals." National Research Council. 2006. Drawing Louisiana's New Map: Addressing Land Loss in Coastal Louisiana. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11476.
×
Page48
Suggested Citation:"3 Conflicts and Limitations to Achieving Goals." National Research Council. 2006. Drawing Louisiana's New Map: Addressing Land Loss in Coastal Louisiana. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11476.
×
Page49
Suggested Citation:"3 Conflicts and Limitations to Achieving Goals." National Research Council. 2006. Drawing Louisiana's New Map: Addressing Land Loss in Coastal Louisiana. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11476.
×
Page50
Suggested Citation:"3 Conflicts and Limitations to Achieving Goals." National Research Council. 2006. Drawing Louisiana's New Map: Addressing Land Loss in Coastal Louisiana. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11476.
×
Page51
Suggested Citation:"3 Conflicts and Limitations to Achieving Goals." National Research Council. 2006. Drawing Louisiana's New Map: Addressing Land Loss in Coastal Louisiana. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11476.
×
Page52
Suggested Citation:"3 Conflicts and Limitations to Achieving Goals." National Research Council. 2006. Drawing Louisiana's New Map: Addressing Land Loss in Coastal Louisiana. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11476.
×
Page53
Suggested Citation:"3 Conflicts and Limitations to Achieving Goals." National Research Council. 2006. Drawing Louisiana's New Map: Addressing Land Loss in Coastal Louisiana. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11476.
×
Page54
Suggested Citation:"3 Conflicts and Limitations to Achieving Goals." National Research Council. 2006. Drawing Louisiana's New Map: Addressing Land Loss in Coastal Louisiana. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11476.
×
Page55
Suggested Citation:"3 Conflicts and Limitations to Achieving Goals." National Research Council. 2006. Drawing Louisiana's New Map: Addressing Land Loss in Coastal Louisiana. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11476.
×
Page56
Suggested Citation:"3 Conflicts and Limitations to Achieving Goals." National Research Council. 2006. Drawing Louisiana's New Map: Addressing Land Loss in Coastal Louisiana. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11476.
×
Page57
Suggested Citation:"3 Conflicts and Limitations to Achieving Goals." National Research Council. 2006. Drawing Louisiana's New Map: Addressing Land Loss in Coastal Louisiana. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11476.
×
Page58
Suggested Citation:"3 Conflicts and Limitations to Achieving Goals." National Research Council. 2006. Drawing Louisiana's New Map: Addressing Land Loss in Coastal Louisiana. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11476.
×
Page59
Suggested Citation:"3 Conflicts and Limitations to Achieving Goals." National Research Council. 2006. Drawing Louisiana's New Map: Addressing Land Loss in Coastal Louisiana. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11476.
×
Page60
Suggested Citation:"3 Conflicts and Limitations to Achieving Goals." National Research Council. 2006. Drawing Louisiana's New Map: Addressing Land Loss in Coastal Louisiana. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11476.
×
Page61
Suggested Citation:"3 Conflicts and Limitations to Achieving Goals." National Research Council. 2006. Drawing Louisiana's New Map: Addressing Land Loss in Coastal Louisiana. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11476.
×
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During the past 50 years, coastal Louisiana has suffered catastrophic land loss due to both natural and human causes. This loss has increased storm vulnerability and amplified risks to lives, property, and economies--a fact underscored by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Drawing Louisiana's New Map reviews a restoration plan proposed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the State of Louisiana, finding that, although the individual projects in the study are scientifically sound, there should be more and larger scale projects that provide a comprehensive approach to addressing land loss over such a large area. More importantly, the study should be guided by a detailed map of the expected future landscape of coastal Louisiana that is developed from agreed upon goals for the region and the nation.

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