A Saturday Washington Post article detailing the national responsibility for saving Louisiana’s coastline has been shared considerably by state bloggers since the weekend. John M. Barry, who also wrote “Rising Tide” and is secretary for the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority East, begins “Our Coast to Fix — Or Lose” outlining the geological history of the lower Mississippi River. He then likens the wetlands to melting ice: “The deprivation of sediment is like moving a block of ice from the freezer to the sink, where it begins to melt; the effect of the canals and pipelines is like attacking that ice with an ice pick, breaking it up.” Barry’s main argument is that the nation has enjoyed the benefits of our coast while leaving Louisiana the environmental liability.

Eastern New Orleans (including the lower Ninth Ward) and St. Bernard Parish — nearly all of which, incidentally, is at or above sea level — exemplify this allocation of costs and benefits. Three man-made shipping canals pass through them, creating almost no jobs there but benefiting commerce throughout the country. Yet nearly all the 175,000 people living there saw their homes flooded not because of any natural vulnerability but because of levee breaks.

Barry concludes,

Generating benefits to the nation is what created the problem, and the nation needs to solve it. Put simply: Why should a cab driver in Pittsburgh or Tulsa pay to fix Louisiana’s coast? Because he gets a stronger economy and lower energy costs from it, and because his benefits created the problem. The failure of Congress and the president to act aggressively to repair the coastline at the mouth of the Mississippi River could threaten the economic vitality of the nation. Louisiana, one of the poorest states, can no longer afford to underwrite benefits for the rest of the nation.

The editorial has been picked apart from numerous angles on Louisiana blogs. Tim’s Nameless Blog questions Barry’s claim that “each land mile over which a hurricane travels absorbs roughly a foot of storm surge.” According to Tim, “the best research to date indicates that each mile over land reduces a hurricane storm surge by about 3 inches. And mind you, even this is really not all that conclusive—it could be much less.”
In Moldy City, Bayou St. John David investigates in detail if last December’s offshore revenue sharing legislation provides a share equitable enough to pay for coastal restoration. Oyster at Your Right Hand Thief and commenters on Maitri’s VatulBlog dissect the legitimacy of the national discussion on whether Southern Louisiana even deserves to be rebuilt.

Louisiana’s coastline provides vital shipping and energy for the industry and lifestyle of our nation. Protecting our environment and resources is key to the economy of the entire state. If Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California) can get on board to fight for our wetlands, then it is certainly incumbent upon all of our national delegates and state officials (including lawmakers from Central Louisiana) to work incessantly for the benefit of Southern Louisiana.

For further background, please see the straightforward Times-Picayune presentation on coastal loss and the related series of reports titled, “Last Chance.” (March 4);

Emily Metzgar’s interview with Blanco’s chief coastal adviser Sidney Coffee for her New Day Louisiana Podcasts (March 11);

and Oyster’s discussion of federal commitment to levee protection and coastal reconstruction. The comments to this post are particularly insightful with respect to the oil and gas industries (April 11).

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