State of the Beach/State Reports/LA

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Louisiana has a rich culture deeply rooted in the Gulf and coastal bayous. However, the state’s coastlines are severely threatened by flooding, aging infrastructure, wetland loss and exposure to tropical storms and hurricanes. Louisiana has made an impressive effort to develop hazard mitigation plans, strengthen construction codes, increase coastal resiliency and strengthen natural buffers. While recent efforts to increase enrollment in the Community Rating System and build to a higher standard are evident, the state needs to adopt better armoring and development management policies.

Louisiana has plentiful coastal resources, including 30% of the total coastal marsh in the lower 48 states. The state is also experiencing rapid loss of coastal marsh land, due in large part to the channelization of the Mississippi River, which historically provided sediment to build the Mississippi Delta. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the coast and recovery will take considerable time. To add insult to injury, a blowout and major release of oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig on April 20,2010 severely impacted Louisiana's coastline and the effects are expected to be felt for years.

Coastal access and access information are lacking. The beach water monitoring program was just gaining traction before the hurricanes and has been set back. There is a considerable amount of shoreline armoring that has been installed for hurricane protection of low-lying areas. Shoreline armoring policies should be developed and updated to reflect lessons learned from the recent hurricanes. Comprehensive draft plans are being developed to restore coastal wetlands and protect coastal communities

Louisiana Ratings


(+) The Parish Coastal Zone Management Ordinance was revised to require all new roads in the coastal zone to be built at least 6 feet above sea level. This revision helps to improve coastal resiliency by bettering emergency response capabilities, reducing long term maintenance costs, and dissuading unsafe developments in low elevation areas.

(+) The State of Louisiana adopted and implemented the 2012 Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast, a 50-year, $50 billion plan that lays out a bold, ambitious, and essential vision for the region’s future. Funding for implementation of the plan is enhanced by the bipartisan RESTORE Act, which directs a sizable share of BP oil spill penalties to Gulf restoration. To supplement, refine and help focus these efforts, Changing Course was a design competition to reimagine a more sustainable Lower Mississippi River Delta, bringing teams together from around the world to create innovative visions for one of America’s greatest natural resources.

(+) The 2017 update to Louisiana's Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast continues to allocate billions of dollars to increase the state's resilience to coastal hazards, with a large focus on protecting and restoring wetlands.

(+) The Gulf of Mexico Alliance is a partnership of the states of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas, with the goal of significantly increasing regional collaboration to enhance the ecological and economic health of the Gulf of Mexico. The five U.S. Gulf States have identified six priority issues that are regionally significant and can be effectively addressed through increased collaboration at local, state, and federal levels: Water Quality, Habitat Conservation and Restoration, Ecosystem Integration and Assessment, Nutrients & Nutrient Impacts, Coastal Community Resilience, and Environmental Education.

(+) The U.S. Geological Survey has conducted research studies and monitoring in Louisiana for many years. Their website contains a wealth of coastal erosion data.

(+) Louisiana lawmakers and voters have restricted the use of oil drilling revenues to only wetlands and coastal preservation.

(0) Between 1956 and 2004, Louisiana's coastal land decrease was a net loss of 1,149 square miles, a total of about 24 square miles per year. From 2004 to 2005, there was a loss of approximately 217 square miles, an increase of about 193 square miles from the previous year’s totals.

(0) Louisiana is slated to receive $6.8 billion from the BP Gulf oil spill settlement which will go toward the state's coastal master plan. The projects include new barrier island building, marsh and wetlands restoration and sediment diversion. On the other hand, Plaquemines Parish issued a statement saying that they remain uncompensated for their tens of thousands of acres of wetlands oiled and increasingly eroding because of the spill.

(-) Louisiana wetlands still suffer from loss of sediment transport due to levees and other structural engineering, and are disappearing at record rates. {Minus}} There are no statewide policies on shoreline stabilization structures and their repair, replacement or removal, and there are no policies that encourage non-structural shoreline stabilization alternatives. {Minus}} There are no statewide minimum setback requirements for coastal development.

(-) 29% of beachwater samples exceeded national standards in 2011, giving Louisiana the dubious distinction of having the highest percentage of failing samples of all the coastal states.

(-) Public access to beaches and recreational areas situated on the Gulf of Mexico currently comprise less than one percent of the entire Louisiana coastline. Access points along the coast that were once available to the public are now closed due to private ownership or commercial development.

(-) Louisiana’s LCZ is experiencing drastic land loss brought about by a combination of levee construction, subsidence, and sea level rise.

(-) The Office of State Parks is concerned about sewage treatment, agricultural runoff, industrial waste, and littering affecting public recreational facilities.

(-) Federal and state reduction in funds has hampered the ability for normal everyday operations, maintenance, and repair of recreational facilities and programs. Funding from the federal government through the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Federal Highway Administration to fund acquisition and development of public outdoor recreation areas and facilities and the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development’s Transportation Enhancement Program respectively have been cut drastically.

(-) Louisiana currently has no central repository for compiling public access available throughout the Louisiana Coastal Zone or the state. A database containing all public access sites with pertinent information (i.e., directions, specifications, and pictures) would aid Louisiana residents and tourists who use recreational facilities in Louisiana. This could also support emergency and planning efforts during the response and recovery stage of a natural disaster or other emergency event. The State of Louisiana does not publish a Coastal Access Guide or keep a website listing the coastal access locations.


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State of the Beach Report: Louisiana
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