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

Chapter:4 Plans and Efforts at Restoring Coastal Louisiana

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Suggested Citation:"4 Plans and Efforts at Restoring Coastal Louisiana." 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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4
Plans and Efforts at Restoring Coastal Louisiana

HIGHLIGHTS

This chapter

  • Reviews the extensive planning, development, and restoration efforts that have preceded and laid the foundation for the Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA), Louisiana—Ecosystem Restoration Study (LCA Study)

  • Identifies the elements of previous efforts that would be desirable components of the LCA Study under review

  • Reviews goals and objectives of ongoing and planned activities outside of the LCA Study

The previous chapters suggest some fundamental axioms regarding the Louisiana coastal zone:

  1. Land loss in coastal Louisiana presents a complex scientific and social problem of unprecedented scale that will require a multi-decadal management solution. A clear, realistic, and shared vision of restoration goals for the Louisiana coast is critical to the successful implementation of the LCA Study.

Suggested Citation:"4 Plans and Efforts at Restoring Coastal Louisiana." 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.
×
  1. Some Louisiana residents will be impacted by changes in this very productive ecosystem whether or not the actions discussed in the LCA Study are undertaken.

  2. There are management and engineering actions that could be done to improve the current condition in some areas.

  3. Land loss is a very urgent problem that with time will only become worse and more costly to address.

  4. It is not possible to restore the entire area, and some communities and existing habitats will be lost.

  5. Large parts of the ecosystem will undergo shifting habitat types, and the rate of change and ability of the ecosystem to adapt will depend on the management strategy adopted.

As stated in numerous U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) policy statements and recommended in many recent National Research Council reports, planning and implementation of water resources projects (including those involving environmental restoration) should be undertaken within the context of the larger system. In keeping with this system approach, comprehensive efforts to address land loss in coastal Louisiana should treat the entire area as an integrated system (actions taken in one locale will have a direct or indirect influence elsewhere in the Mississippi River Delta). The overall project management approach should also be transparent, scientifically based and defensible and be implemented through an adaptive management process to adjust to the best available knowledge of the region. Both the urgency and the need for comprehensive planning initiatives have been identified by earlier independent reviews (Boesch et al., 1994). Efforts to restore coastal Louisiana started about 30 years ago, and this chapter chronicles the more recent efforts. (See Box 1.1 for a list of efforts from 1967 to the release of the LCA Study.)

COASTAL WETLANDS PLANNING, PROTECTION, AND RESTORATION ACT

Legislative History and Funding

In recognition of the national importance of wetlands and the significant wetland losses occurring in Louisiana and elsewhere, Congress passed the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act (CWPPRA) (P.L. 101-646, Title III) in 1990. CWPPRA establishes both a national wetlands conservation initiative and a wetlands conservation and restoration program for the State of Louisiana. The objectives of CWPPRA are as follows:

Suggested Citation:"4 Plans and Efforts at Restoring Coastal Louisiana." 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.
×
  • Provide for the planning, identification, and implementation of priority coastal wetland restoration projects in Louisiana

  • Encourage the State of Louisiana to develop a plan with the goal of achieving no net loss of coastal wetlands as a result of future development activities

  • Provide for grants to coastal states to implement coastal wetlands conservation projects

Funding authority for CWPPRA is provided through the Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990. Funds are derived from a portion of the Aquatic Resources Trust Fund that is supported by taxes on fishing equipment and motorboat and engine fuel tax. Of the amount appropriated each year from this fund, the Department of the Interior receives 30 percent to support the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program and the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund. USACE receives 70 percent for construction and associated activities related to the Louisiana program. Funding for the Louisiana program is approximately $50 million per year. The cost share for CWPPRA projects is 85 percent by the federal government and 15 percent by the State of Louisiana.

Organization

CWPPRA directed the Secretary of the Army to establish a task force composed of the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Secretary of the Department of Commerce, the Secretary of the Department of the Interior, the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, and the Governor of the State of Louisiana. Senior officials, who have been delegated responsibility, represent the official members of the task force. The New Orleans District Commander of USACE is the task force chairman. The New Orleans District also provides general administrative and management support to the task force and has financial accounting and disbursement responsibility for all federal and nonfederal funds associated with the program.

The task force is the overall governing and final decision-making body of the CWPPRA program in Louisiana (Figure 4.1). The task force prepares and submits to Congress an annual project priority list (PPL) of Louisiana wetland restoration projects.

The technical committee and planning and evaluation subcommittee each have the same representation as the task force. The technical committee provides advice and recommendations to the task force on the engineering, environmental, economic, real estate, construction, operation and maintenance, and monitoring aspects of the CWPPRA program and individual projects. The planning and evaluation subcommittee is the day-

Suggested Citation:"4 Plans and Efforts at Restoring Coastal Louisiana." 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 4.1 Organizational structure of the CWPPRA program (U.S. Geological Survey, 2005; used with permission from the U.S. Geological Survey).

to-day working level committee that oversees technical workgroups and provides input and recommendations to the technical committee.

The planning and evaluation subcommittee established four technical groups for environment, engineering, economics, and monitoring to evaluate projects for PPL and restoration plan. The environmental workgroup estimates the benefits (in terms of wetlands created, protected, enhanced, or restored) associated with proposed projects. The engineering workgroup reviews project cost estimates for consistency. The economic workgroup performs the economic analysis that permits comparison of projects based on cost-effectiveness. The monitoring workgroup established a standard procedure for monitoring CWPPRA projects, developed a monitoring cost estimating procedure based on project type, and provides advice and recommendations on all CWPPRA monitoring activities. The technical advisory workgroup reports to the monitoring

Suggested Citation:"4 Plans and Efforts at Restoring Coastal Louisiana." 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.
×

workgroup and assists with the design of project-specific monitoring plans and conducts evaluations of project effectiveness.

An academic advisory workgroup represents Louisiana’s academic community and provides general support for the program, including the screening, development, and ranking of demonstration projects, as well as assisting with individual project design. This group reports to the environmental workgroup.

To facilitate public input into the process, a public outreach subcommittee was established by the task force to oversee and conduct the communications, public relations, and education activities of the program. Participating federal agencies, the State of Louisiana, and nonprofit organizations make up the membership. There is also a citizen’s participation group to receive input from the public and to promote public participation in the program. This group assists with developing PPLs and ensures that the general public has an opportunity to review PPLs.

Accomplishments

The CWPPRA task force developed the required Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Restoration Plan in 1993. This plan provided a basis for early PPL project selection. The Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Restoration Plan divided the Louisiana coastal zone into nine hydrologic basins. Basin-level restoration solutions using proven techniques with cost and benefit analyses were developed to respond to the specific priority needs of each basin. The plan proposed projects estimated at $1.3 billion that could prevent about 65 percent of coastal land losses over 20 years (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 2005a).

In response to the CWPPRA legislation, the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources was designated the lead agency to develop a state wetlands conservation plan. The conservation plan included regulatory, nonregulatory, and educational programs that would achieve the desired no net loss goal (Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Task Force and the Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Authority, 1998). Approval of the wetlands conservation plan in 1997 resulted in a revision of the cost-sharing requirements of CWPPRA from the 75 percent to the current 85 percent federal share.

Restoration Projects

Since passage of CWPPRA in 1990, the task force has prepared and submitted 13 PPLs to Congress. CWPPRA projects fall into 10 categories of restoration techniques:

Suggested Citation:"4 Plans and Efforts at Restoring Coastal Louisiana." 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.
×
  1. Freshwater diversion

  2. Freshwater outfall management

  3. Sediment diversion

  4. Dredged material or marsh creation

  5. Shoreline protection

  6. Sediment and nutrient trapping

  7. Hydrologic restoration

  8. Marsh management

  9. Barrier island restoration

  10. Vegetation planting

The annual selection of projects begins with input and recommendations from the public and task force member agencies, taking into consideration strategies outlined in Coast 2050: Toward a Sustainable Coastal Louisiana (Coast 2050). (See below for more details.) Reviews and evaluations are conducted by the task force workgroups, and final recommendations for project selection for PPLs are based on the proposed project’s technical (scientific) merit, cost-effectiveness, and predicted benefits in terms of improving wetland quantity and quality. The predicted benefits of potential projects are determined by using Wetland Value Assessment models. These models were developed specially for CWPPRA in order to provide a quantitative means to compare expected changes in habitat quantity and quality across projects (Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Task Force, 2003).

Each project included in a PPL has a project life of approximately 20 years, during which time the project is maintained and monitored to determine the long-term effectiveness of the restoration effort. Since 1991, 142 projects have been approved with a projected benefit to create, restore, or protect almost 566 square kilometers (km2) (218.5 square miles [mi2]) of coastal wetlands over the next 20–30 years at an estimated cost of $504 million (Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Task Force, 2003; Table 4.1). There are currently 124 active CWPPRA projects. It is estimated that the total land gain due to the CWPPRA projects over the next 50 years will be 140 km2 (54 mi2) (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 2004a). In 1997, the projected prevention of total wetland losses accrued by CWPPRA was revised to be less than 25 percent of the projected land lost by 2050 (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 2005a). This led to recognition that a new, more robust restoration effort was needed. As a result, in 1998, the Coastal Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Task Force and the Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Authority prepared Coast 2050.

Suggested Citation:"4 Plans and Efforts at Restoring Coastal Louisiana." 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 4.1 Projected Results of Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act (CWPPRA) Initiatives (as of 11/03)

 

CWPPRA Projects Authorized

CWPPRA Projects Constructed

Expected Wetland Benefits in km2 (mi2 in parentheses) (authorized projects)a

Total Cost Estimates (authorized projects) (dollars)

Region 1 Basins

17

7

48.0 (18.5)

25,475,934

Pontchartrain

17

7

48.0 (18.5)

25,475,934

Region 2 Basins

42

14

267.1 (103.1)

171,267,903

Breton Sound

6

1

14.3 (5.5)

10,742,032

Mississippi River

9

4

174.2 (67.3)

33,082,303

Barataria

27

9

78.6 (30.3)

127,443,568

Region 3 Basins

47

23

82.2 (31.7)

191,813,675

Terrebonne

32

14

37.6 (14.5)

150,471,719

Atchafalaya

3

2

17.7 (6.8)

11,965,718

Teche/Vermilion

12

7

26.9 (10.4)

29,376,238

Region 4 Basins

33

22

108.2 (41.8)

99,246,747

Mermentau

14

7

25.8 (10.0)

27,369,914

Calcasieu/Sabine

19

15

82.4 (31.8)

71,876,833

Coastwide

3

2

60.6 (23.4)

16,233,889

Total

142

68

566.1 (218.6)

504,038,148

aExpected wetland benefits are defined as the number of wetland acres created, restored, or protected over the 20-year project life.

SOURCE: Modified from Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Task Force, 2003; used with permission from the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources.

COAST 2050

Coast 2050 has been described as a strategic plan for the survival of Louisiana’s coast. It has also been called an “unprecedented effort among diverse groups who have united behind a common vision to sustain a coastal ecosystem that supports and protects the environment, economy, and culture of southern Louisiana and that contributes greatly to the economy and well-being of the nation” (Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Task Force and the Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Authority, 1998).

Coast 2050 was a joint coastal restoration planning effort undertaken by federal, state, and local entities as well as academics and other interested parties. The planning effort sought to maximize common ground

Suggested Citation:"4 Plans and Efforts at Restoring Coastal Louisiana." 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.
×

between ecosystem needs and publicly acceptable restoration solutions (Figure 4.2). “The process involved an integrated, multiple-use approach to ecosystem management and considered such factors as fish and wildlife productivity, transportation, navigation, utilities infrastructure, freshwater supply, public safety, local economies, businesses, jobs, and community stability” (Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Task Force and the Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Authority, 1998). The Louisiana coast was divided into four regions representing distinct geologic and hydrologic areas (Figure 1.1). Each region was used as a basis for analysis and to facilitate local input into the plan

Figure 4.3 illustrates the multiagency and federal and state partnership that evolved in developing Coast 2050. Represented in the strategic working group were USACE, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries. Many state agencies were represented on the strategic working group, which also included academic and consultancy support. This working group was responsible for overseeing

FIGURE 4.2 Coast 2050 process for public involvement and strategic planning (Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Task Force and the Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Authority, 1998; used with permission from the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources).

Suggested Citation:"4 Plans and Efforts at Restoring Coastal Louisiana." 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 4.3 Coast 2050 organization (Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Task Force and the Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Authority, 1998; used with permission from the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources).

the development of the strategic plan. The planning management team was responsible for authoring Coast 2050.

The coastal zone management working group consisted of parish government representatives and parish coastal zone management advisory committees. The coastal zone management working group was responsible for determining public acceptance of habitat objectives and restoration strategies. To that end, the public participated in 65 public meetings held throughout the planning process from 1997 to 1998 throughout the study area. The objectives development team focused on obtaining information regarding coastal use and resource objectives that were used to create the strategic plan.

Four regional planning teams were established to create coastal restoration strategies and to review the coastal-use and resource objectives generated by the objectives development team. These planning teams, which

Suggested Citation:"4 Plans and Efforts at Restoring Coastal Louisiana." 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.
×

comprised agency staff, academics, parish governments, Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service-Louisiana State University Sea Grant staff, and volunteer local participants, provided technical information and proposed regional coastal strategies to the planning management team.

The CWPPRA task force, the State Wetlands Authority, and the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources’ Coastal Zone Management Authority adopted Coast 2050 as their unified coastal restoration strategy. All CWPPRA projects beginning in 1999 were required to reflect the strategies outlined in Coast 2050. All 20 coastal parish governments adopted resolutions in support of Coast 2050 (Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Task Force and the Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Authority, 1998).

Coast 2050 was an extension of work conducted in previous state coastal planning efforts. Results from CWPPRA projects were also folded into the analysis. New technical information was developed (e.g., projecting wetland losses between 1990 and 2050) considering faulting, subsidence, and land loss in coastal Louisiana. Methods were developed to assess existing trends in fisheries production and to project these into the future. Existing wildlife habitat status and future trends were analyzed (Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Task Force and the Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Authority, 1998).

Coast 2050 focuses on processes, such as river water diversions, in order to create and sustain marsh by accumulating sediment and organic matter and to maintain habitat diversity by varying salinities and protecting key landforms. Dredged materials would be used beneficially to create marsh in various sites. Barrier islands, headlands, and shorelands would be restored and maintained using the most cost-effective means. The Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO) navigation channel was to be closed as soon as possible. In the Barataria-Terrebonne area, large amounts of water from the Mississippi River would be funneled to build two new deltas, one on either side of Bayou Lafourche. The Atchafalaya River would continue to carry muddy sediment east and south to support nearby marshes. In the Calcasieu-Sabine area, seasonally operated locks at the mouth of the navigation channels would help the marshes recover from salinity stress (Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Task Force and the Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Authority, 1998).

RECONNAISSANCE-LEVEL REPORT

The next step undertaken by USACE was the development and release of the 905(b) reconnaissance report (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 1999a), which was required by USACE’s water resources planning pro-

Suggested Citation:"4 Plans and Efforts at Restoring Coastal Louisiana." 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.
×

cess. This report recommended that Coast 2050 proceed to the feasibility phase, which would produce the Louisiana Coastal Area, LA—Ecosystem Restoration: Comprehensive Coastwide Ecosystem Restoration Study (draft LCA Comprehensive Study) that assesses Coast 2050 at a programmatic, feasibility level. Along with the draft LCA Comprehensive Study, a programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS) was developed starting with scoping meetings in April 2002 (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 2004b). PEIS analyzes project features that are non-location specific, provides a macro description of economic effects, and gives parametric cost estimates.

DRAFT LCA COMPREHENSIVE STUDY

Begun as a substitute for a series of feasibility reports, the draft LCA Comprehensive Study was based on Coast 2050 and the 905(b) reconnaissance report. It was intended to serve as a national ecosystem restoration plan and to achieve a coastwide system of restoration projects in Louisiana that would function in an integrated fashion to achieve established goals. The draft LCA Comprehensive Study, made available by the State of Louisiana in November 2003, describes and summarizes a series of studies that was to be reviewed and adjusted based on public and technical review.1 As discussed later, even though a formal comprehensive plan has not been released, much of the work completed and discussed in the draft LCA Comprehensive Study provides the underpinnings of the LCA Study. Thus, its discussion here is appropriate. The draft LCA Comprehensive Study contains a set of alternative comprehensive plans for each of the four regions but offers no specific recommended plan. (While a comprehensive plan is needed, this does not necessarily imply endorsement of the draft LCA Comprehensive Study.)

Goal and Objectives

The draft LCA Comprehensive Study (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 2003a) sought to provide the following objectives:

  • Create a sustainable Louisiana coastal ecosystem having the essential functions and values of a natural ecosystem

  • Restore the largest practicable acreage of productive and diverse wetlands

1  

The draft LCA Comprehensive Study, like the LCA Study itself, would have been followed up by a series of decision documents (feasibility reports) evaluating, in detail, certain components of the overall restoration program (G. Duszynski, written communication, 2005).

Suggested Citation:"4 Plans and Efforts at Restoring Coastal Louisiana." 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.
×
  • Develop restoration plans in consideration of the economic impacts and incidental economic benefits to natural resources, communities, infrastructure, and industries along the coast

  • Develop a comprehensive plan that is coordinated and consistent with other major land-use and infrastructure features, particularly with respect to navigation, hurricane protection or flood control, and oil and gas production

Organization

An interagency project delivery team2 was assembled with staff from USACE, the State of Louisiana, FWS, NOAA, EPA, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Further, USACE and the State of Louisiana assembled a team of more than 120 scientists, engineers, and planners from across the nation to provide advice and guidance, carry out complex modeling efforts, and review results (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 2003a; Figure 4.4).

As part of this broad effort, USACE established the National Technical Review Committee (NTRC) in April 2002 to provide an external, independent technical review of the draft LCA Comprehensive Study. NTRC consists of 10 internationally recognized scientists encompassing a range of technical disciplines. Seven meetings were held in New Orleans between June 2002 and November 2003 to provide reviews at strategic times during the development of the draft LCA Comprehensive Study. NTRC members provided individual comments and recommendations after each meeting, and a report was prepared (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 2003a; Orth et al., 2005).

Planning and the Plan Development Process

The draft LCA Comprehensive Study’s planning process consisted of the following five phases:

  • Phase I: Establish planning objectives and evaluation criteria

  • Phase II: Assess restoration strategies from Coast 2050

  • Phase III: Develop and evaluate restoration projects and measures

  • Phase IV: Develop and evaluate alternatives—Select a final array of coastwide plans

  • Phase V: Select coastwide plan that best meets objectives (to be accomplished after public coordination)

2  

The project development team is the formal mechanism described in the National Environmental Policy Act.

Suggested Citation:"4 Plans and Efforts at Restoring Coastal Louisiana." 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 4.4 Plan formulation for the draft LCA Comprehensive Study. (Information was gathered from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers [2003a].)

Suggested Citation:"4 Plans and Efforts at Restoring Coastal Louisiana." 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.
×

Phases I and II built on previous efforts so the most elaborate and detailed work took place in Phases III and IV. In Phase III, projects were developed for each region and evaluated for contributions to three increasingly ambitious quantitative target levels of restoration: (1) reduce the present rate of total wetland loss by 50 percent of the no-action land loss rate, (2) maintain the present total area of coastal wetlands over the next 50 years, and (3) enhance the present landscape condition by increasing the wetland area by 50 percent of the present annual net land loss rate over the next 50 years. Because not all of the proposed projects can be combined and interactions among project effects must be anticipated, the hundreds of potential projects were grouped into 32 alternative region plans: 10 each for the Pontchartrain–lower Mississippi–Breton Sound and Barataria regions, five for the Teche–Vermilion–Atchafalaya–Terrebonne region, and seven in the Chenier Plain region.

The draft LCA Comprehensive Study’s planning process was guided by three hydrogeomorphic objectives and two ecosystem objectives (Box 4.1). The process involved subjecting the various restoration alternatives to a fairly straightforward scale of potential effectiveness. In addition, seven environmental operating principles (Box 4.2) informed the formu-

Box 4.1
Tactical Planning Objectives

Hydrogeomorphic Objectives:

  • Establish dynamic salinity gradients that reflect natural cycles of freshwater availability and marine forcing (fluctuation related to normal daily and seasonal tidal action and exchange)

  • Increase sediment input from sources outside estuarine basins and manage existing sediment resources within estuarine basins to sustain and rejuvenate existing wetlands and rebuild marsh substrate

  • Maintain or establish natural landscape features and hydrologic processes that are critical to sustainable ecosystem structure and function

Ecosystem Objectives:

  • Sustain productive and diverse fish and wildlife habitats

  • Reduce nutrient delivery to the continental shelf by routing Mississippi River waters through estuarine basins while minimizing potential adverse effects

SOURCE: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 2003a.

Suggested Citation:"4 Plans and Efforts at Restoring Coastal Louisiana." 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.
×

Box 4.2
Environmental Operating Principles

  1. Strive to achieve environmental sustainability and recognize that an environment maintained in a healthy, diverse, and sustainable condition is necessary to support life

  2. Recognize the interdependence of life and the physical environment and proactively consider environmental consequences of USACE programs and act accordingly in all appropriate circumstances

  3. Seek balance and synergy among human development activities and natural systems by designing economic and environmental solutions that support and reinforce one another

  4. Continue to accept corporate responsibility and accountability under the law for activities and decisions under our control that impact human health and welfare and the continued viability of natural systems

  5. Seek ways and means to assess and mitigate cumulative impacts to the environment and bring systems approaches to the full life cycle of our processes and work

  6. Build and share an integrated scientific, economic, and social knowledge base that supports a greater understanding of the environment and impacts of our work

  7. Respect the views of individuals and groups interested in USACE activities, listen to them actively, and learn from their perspective in the search to find innovative win-win solutions to the nation’s problems that also protect and enhance the environment

SOURCE: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 2004a.

lation process and are integrated into all proposed program and project management processes (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 2004a). The project delivery team compiled 10 guiding principles for plan formulation (Box 4.3) in coordination with key stakeholder groups and with public comments provided during the scoping process (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 2004a).

In Phase IV, the likely outcomes of each regional alternative were assessed using simulation models, desktop models, and restoration benefit calculations. (See Chapter 5 for a description and analysis of these models.) Here, the term “benefit” is used to signify generic contribution to the objectives (e.g., acres of reduced land loss or of land gain), not assessment of the economic benefits. In an extensive cost-effectiveness and incremental cost analysis, the analysts compared benefits per unit cost among the

Suggested Citation:"4 Plans and Efforts at Restoring Coastal Louisiana." 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.
×

Box 4.3
Ten Guiding Principles for Plan Formulation

  1. It is evident that management of Louisiana’s coast is at a point of decision. Only a concerted effort now will stem this ongoing degradation, and thus alternatives must include features which can be implemented in the near-term and provide some immediate benefits to the ecosystem, as well as those which require further development and refinement of techniques and approaches.

  2. Appreciation of the natural dynamism of the coastal system must be integral to planning and the selection of preferred alternatives. This should include assessing the risks associated with tropical storms, river floods, and droughts.

  3. Alternatives that mimic natural processes and rely on natural cycles and processes for their operation and maintenance will be preferred.

  4. Limited sediment availability is one of the constraints on system rehabilitation. Therefore, plan elements including mechanical sediment retrieval and placement may be considered where landscape objectives cannot be met using natural processes. Because sediment mining can contribute to ecosystem degradation in the source area, such alternatives should, to the extent practicable, maximize use of sediment sources outside the coastal ecosystem (e.g., from the Mississippi River or the Gulf of Mexico).

  5. Plans will seek to achieve ecosystem sustainability and diversity while providing interchange and linkages among habitats.

  6. Future rising sea levels and other global changes must be acknowledged and incorporated into planning and the selection of preferred alternatives.

alternative combinations of projects in each region, added some supplemental plans to “address completeness,” and selected a final array of seven alternative comprehensive plans for further review. In parallel with the development of the draft LCA Comprehensive Study, USACE drafted a PEIS for review and comment by the public.

Public Outreach and Consensus Building

Based on the draft PEIS, USACE and the State of Louisiana held six scoping meeting in April 2002. They received 301 verbal and written comments that are summarized in the draft PEIS. In addition to the PEIS comment process, the project development team pursued a multi-tiered plan for public involvement, including (1) special meetings with local governments in the parishes; (2) public meetings to solicit input from stakehold-

Suggested Citation:"4 Plans and Efforts at Restoring Coastal Louisiana." 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.
×
  1. Displacement and dislocation of resources, infrastructure, and possibly communities may be unavoidable under some scenarios. In the course of restoring a sustainable balance to the coastal ecosystem, sensitivity and fairness must be shown to those whose homes, lands, livelihoods, and ways of life may be adversely affected by the implementation of any selected alternatives. Any restoration-induced impacts will be consistent with [the National Environmental Policy Act] in that actions will be taken to avoid, minimize, rectify, reduce, and then, only if necessary, compensate for project-induced impacts.

  2. The rehabilitation of the Louisiana coastal ecosystem will be an ongoing and evolving process. The selected plan should include an effective monitoring and evaluation process that reduces scientific uncertainty, assesses the success of the plan, and supports adaptive management of plan implementation.

  3. Recognizing that disturbed and degraded ecosystems can be vulnerable to invasive species, implementation needs to be coordinated with other state and federal programs addressing such invasions, and project designs will promote conditions conducive to native species by incorporating features, where appropriate, to protect against invasion to the extent possible without diminishing project effectiveness.

  4. Net nutrient uptake within the coastal ecosystem is maximized through increased residence time and the development of organic substrates, and thus project design should promote conditions that route riverine waters through estuarine basins and minimize nutrient export to shelf waters.

SOURCE: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 2004a.

ers, other governmental units, and academia; (3) Internet web site interactions; and (4) special briefings for executives of large corporations and national interest groups. To obtain public input to the process, the project delivery team held four public meetings during February 2003 regarding plan formulation, four meetings in May–June 2003 to present and receive comments on the 32 region alternatives, and four meetings during August 2003 to present and receive comments on the final array of alternatives being considered. The November 2003 draft PEIS contains a summary of the comments received at the public meetings.

LCA STUDY

Due to the Office of Management and Budget’s desire to shift the focus to a smaller, near-term effort, USACE prepared the LCA Study. Some

Suggested Citation:"4 Plans and Efforts at Restoring Coastal Louisiana." 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.
×

of the analysis completed for the draft LCA Comprehensive Study was used to support the LCA Study’s conclusions regarding mechanisms for attaining near-term restoration goals. (Refer to Chapter 1 for additional information.) In short, the goals of the LCA Study are to (1) identify critical human and ecological needs, (2) determine alternatives for meeting these needs, (3) identify restoration features where construction can begin within 5–10 years, (4) establish priorities within these restoration features, (5) describe how the priority features could be developed and implemented, (6) determine the scientific uncertainties and engineering challenges and propose solutions to these uncertainties and challenges, (7) identify feasibility studies that need to be done within the next 5–10 years to explore large-scale, long-term efforts, and (8) develop a strategy to address the long-term restoration needs of coastal Louisiana.

IMPLEMENTATION OF THE LCA STUDY: ORGANIZATION, DURATION, AND FUNDING

The implementation of the LCA Study is expected to be organized as depicted in Figure 4.5. The LCA Study requests “specific Congressional authorization for five near-term critical restoration features for which construction starts in 5–10 years, with implementation subject to approval of feasibility-level documents by the Secretary of the Army” (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 2004a). The total project costs are summarized in Table 4.2. The portion of the LCA Study for which immediate authorization is being requested includes the five near-term critical projects ($864,065,000), the Science and Technology (S&T) Program ($100,000,000), the demonstration project program ($100,000,000), the beneficial use program ($100,000,000), and the investigations of modifications of existing structures ($10,000,000) at a total cost of $1,174,065,000. Construction authorization was requested from Congress for the five critical projects because significant feasibility-level work had already been performed on them, and waiting for construction authorization in future Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) bills could delay their construction. If authorization is provided, decision documents (individual feasibility reports) would still be required prior to construction, but the decision to proceed to construction would be made by the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works rather than Congress (G. Duszynski, written communication, 2005).

Other components of the LCA Study include 10 additional near-term critical projects that will require future congressional authorization for construction ($761,916,000) and studies of six potentially promising long-term, large-scale restoration concepts ($60,000,000). Thus, the estimated cost of implementing all components of the LCA Study is $1,995,981,000;

Suggested Citation:"4 Plans and Efforts at Restoring Coastal Louisiana." 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 4.5 LCA Study implementation plan. (Information was gathered from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers [2004a].)

Suggested Citation:"4 Plans and Efforts at Restoring Coastal Louisiana." 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 4.2 Proposed Funding (Dollars) for the LCA Study with Federal/State Cost Share Ratios

Item

Federal Share

State Share

Total Cost

Feasibility-level decision and National Environmental Policy Act documentation (50/50)

27,336,500

27,336,500

54,673,000

Near-term feature first construction cost (65/35)

402,750,300

61,758,450

489,845,000

Preconstruction, engineering, and design (65/35)

24,327,500

11,924,500

36,252,000

Engineering and design (65/35)

20,277,850

8,740,150

29,018,000

Supervision and administration (65/35)

48,859,750

20,113,250

68,973,000

Project monitoring (65/35)

4,553,150

2,131,850

6,685,000

Land, easements, rights of way, relocation, and disposal (LERRD) (0/100)

0

178,619,000

178,619,000

Conditionally authorizeda subtotal

528,105,050

310,623,700

864,065,000

Cash contribution

555,225,300b

130,004,450

 

Science and Technology Program (10 years) (65/35)

65,000,000

35,000,000

100,000,000

Demonstration program (10 years) (65/35)

65,000,000

35,000,000

100,000,000

Beneficial use of dredge material program (72/25)

75,000,000

25,000,000

100,000,000

Investigations of modifications of existing structures (50/50)

5,000,000

5,000,000

10,000,000

Programmatically authorizedc subtotal

210,000,000

100,000,000

310,000,000

Cash contributions

210,000,000

100,000,000

 

Total conditionally and programmatically authorized subtotal

738,105,050

410,623,700

1,174,065,000

Feasibility-level decision and National Environmental Policy Act documentation (50/50)

23,764,500

23,764,500

47,529,000

Near-term feature first construction cost (65/35)

334,439,850

25,829,150

360,269,000

Preconstruction, engineering, and design (65/35)

31,417,550

4,609,450

36,027,000

Engineering and design (65/35)

40,662,750

4,972,250

45,635,000

Suggested Citation:"4 Plans and Efforts at Restoring Coastal Louisiana." 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.
×

Item

Federal Share

State Share

Total Cost

Supervision and administration (65/35)

54,137,450

4,535,550

58,673,000

Project monitoring (65/35)

3,693,950

1,989,050

5,683,000

LERRD (0/100)

0

208,100,000

208,100,000

Conventionally authorizedd features subtotal

488,116,050

273,799,950

761,916,000

Cash contributions

488,116,050

65,699,950

 

Large-scale studies (50/50)

30,000,000

30,000,000

60,000,000

Total conventionally authorized subtotal

518,116,050

303,799,950

821,916,000

Total LCA Study cost share

1,256,221,000

714,423,650

1,995,981,000

Total cash contributions

1,283,341,350

325,704,400

 

Total Real Estate

 

386,719,000

 

a“Conditionally authorized” refers to items that have been “recommended for specific Congressional authorization, with implementation subject to Secretary of the Army review and approval of feasibility-level decision documents” (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 2004a).

bFor the conditionally authorized feature of small diversion at Hope Canal, LERRD exceeded 35 percent of the total project cost by $25,336,250, which is reimbursed to the nonfederal sponsor.

c“Programmatically authorized” refers to items Congress has authorized USACE to proceed with the group of projects without authorizing the individual projects involved.

d”Conventionally authorized” refers to items proposed in the Chief’s Report and authorized by Congress through the Water Resources Development Act.

SOURCE: Modified from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 2004a. (Refer to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers [2005b] for cost revisions.)

approximately 86 percent of the total cost is for projects (including the beneficial-use program), and the remainder is dedicated to advancing scientific, engineering, and technical skills. For a state-level cash contribution of more than $325 million, Louisiana would obtain a project worth nearly $2 billion. The total cost associated with compensating landowners alone exceeds the state’s cash contribution.

Suggested Citation:"4 Plans and Efforts at Restoring Coastal Louisiana." 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.
×

RELATIONSHIP OF COAST 2050 AND THE LCA STUDY TO CWPPRA PROJECTS AND EXPERIENCE

The overall purpose, methodologies, procedures, and participants are generally consistent between CWPPRA and the LCA Study. This is not surprising given that the LCA Study builds on and represents an evolution of the information and lessons learned from CWPPRA.

However, notable differences between the two programs exist. Foremost among the differences is the scale of the projects associated with each of the two programs. With limited funding for a problem that spans the entire Louisiana coast, “CWPPRA has concentrated on small-scale projects distributed across the coast. In contrast, the LCA [Study] focuses on larger projects that would generally work at an ecosystem scale” (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 2004a).

Another significant difference between the two programs is the increased emphasis that the LCA Study places on future studies and research, whereas CWPPRA focuses almost exclusively on constructing and monitoring restoration projects. The LCA Study is more comprehensive and forward thinking, as demonstrated by the inclusion of funding for a 10-year S&T Program, demonstration projects, a program to increase the beneficial uses of dredged material, and investigations of modifications of existing structures.

A third significant difference is the extent of public involvement in the programs. CWPPRA has built two formal elements of public involvement into the program: a public outreach committee and citizens participation group. The LCA Study, on the other hand, does not propose any formal structure to ensure public involvement in the future, which is a serious deficiency of the plan.3

Project selection is another difference between the programs. CWPPRA and Coast 2050 conducted extensive outreach to the public through parish-level meetings in order to identify needs and potential projects. Input from these meetings was reflected in the restoration plan. Project selection in the LCA Study was based on a series of outputs from computer models and an array of selection criteria, which are examined in detail in Chapter 5. Given the overall extent to which the two programs complement one another and are on such parallel tracks, consideration should be given to integrating the two efforts at an appropriate time.

3  

The Louisiana Department of Natural Resources and USACE personnel have been working since March 2005 to develop and implement mechanisms to increase public involvement in any eventual Louisiana coastal area program implementation (G. Duszynski, written communication, 2005).

Suggested Citation:"4 Plans and Efforts at Restoring Coastal Louisiana." 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.
×

IMPROVING ONGOING RESTORATION EFFORTS

The history of restoration efforts in Louisiana over the past four decades underscores the magnitude of the challenge facing the state and the nation. Although many of the efforts have led to land gain in limited areas, the overall impact of these efforts has done little to stem the increasing toll of coastal erosion. The recognition that more ambitious approaches would be needed, as envisioned in Coast 2050, represents a significant step in understanding the problem. The draft LCA Comprehensive Study, and the effort that went into its development, represents the type of effort needed to address large-scale land loss in Louisiana. Although the draft LCA Comprehensive Study was not the subject of this review, much of the supporting documentation in the LCA Study was derived to support the draft LCA Comprehensive Study. Thus, although some of the weaknesses of the LCA Study were inherited from the preceding effort, or came about because of the short transition time allowed between the completion of the draft LCA Comprehensive Study and the release of the LCA Study, it has its own shortcomings. Principal among these is the impression that it offers too modest an effort. Unless efforts proposed in the LCA Study successfully lay the groundwork for an ongoing, ambitious effort that extends beyond the next 10 years, that impression may be shown to be valid. Subsequent chapters lay out steps that should be undertaken if the efforts outlined in the LCA Study are to establish requirements for the subsequent and more ambitious activities that will undoubtedly be needed.

Suggested Citation:"4 Plans and Efforts at Restoring Coastal Louisiana." 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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Suggested Citation:"4 Plans and Efforts at Restoring Coastal Louisiana." 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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