By Rachel Schott, Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign
Preparation for hurricane season is second nature to most Louisianans. From gathering supplies to boarding up windows to mapping out evacuation routes, coastal residents acknowledge their tenuous positioning on the Gulf and the uncertain weather conditions that come from June to November. Yet with all this preparation, a question remains: Is the Louisiana coast as prepared as its residents? With the beginning of another hurricane season, the need for restoring the Mississippi River Delta and building coastal resiliency is more important than ever.
Louisiana’s location on the Gulf makes it vulnerable to hurricane storm surge, winds and flooding, as evidenced by the destruction caused by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Isaac. The Louisiana coast consists of wetlands and marshes that provide buffer zones for the southern part of the state. Unfortunately, drastic land loss has reduced this natural protection, leaving Louisiana and its residents in an increasingly dangerous position.
In addition to providing storm protection, the Mississippi River Delta and wetlands are home to a diverse scope of wildlife habitats, vegetation and animals; factors that have shaped Louisiana’s culture and continue to drive tourism. As the wetlands diminish, not only will a number of ecosystems be lost, but also the unique and vibrant lifestyle of Louisiana residents. Since the 1930s, Louisiana has lost about 1,900 square miles of land and continues to lose land equivalent to the size of Manhattan every year. Couple this land loss with rising sea levels and predictions of an “above-normal” 2013 hurricane season, and Louisiana is reminded even more of the value and necessity of timely wetlands restoration.
Prepare yourself this hurricane season by sharing coastal restoration issues with others and help work toward rebuilding the Mississippi River Delta.