Another story was published Wednesday about how coastal erosion impacting the state, but will anyone other than people in South Louisiana take notice?

For decades residents, environmental advocates, conservationists and some public officials have been crying out for help, but it appears none is on the way.

Books have been written about how Louisiana is losing so much of its coastal lands and marshes. Numerous stories have been reported by newspapers across South Louisiana, some have been picked up by the Associated Press, but have had limited exposure. When Mary Landrieu was the junior U.S. senator, she used to have a counter on the front page of her website that showed how much land was washing away each minute. 

Governors have appealed to Washington pleading for help. During the Gov. Mike Foster administration, one estimate for several projects across the state’s coast put a price tag at about $14 billion. For sure that price tag has risen sharply and many of those projects likely sit on shelves somewhere collecting dust.

It seemed as though coastal erosion was on the verge of becoming part of the national discourse, but now seems to have fallen off the map.

Now comes a report from our neighbors in Vermilion Parish, whose parish president declared a state of emergency because of rising salinity levels in the Mermentau River basin. At stake are the livelihoods of rice and crawfish farmers, said Vermilion Parish President Wayne Touchet in an AP story Wednesday. Coastal biologist Mark Shirley, of the LSU AgCenter, said in the story that the drought has exacerbated the coastal erosion problem and gaps in the shoreline have allowed the salt water to creep farther inland. The problem means that those farmers who once used this fresh water to irrigate crops and crawfish can no longer do so without threatening the viability of the land the gives them their living.

Vermilion Parish sees the accelerated loss of land experienced by our neighbors to the east in the Barataria-Terrebonne Basin and do not want the same to happen to its land.

Pat Santos, the governor’s head of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, says the state will continue to work with officials at every level of government, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but somehow that does not seem to be reassuring.

The Corps seems to move at a snail’s pace when it comes to coastal erosion, so there is no evidence it will speed up now, especially in light of the budget woes this country is experiencing.

The answer is likely to be at the local level, such as Terrebonne Parish’s efforts to establish a hurricane protection system that also could slow the rate of erosion. The trouble with that is the limited resources of local governments for such an enormous problem that larger governments have shared blame in the cause of the erosion.

JEFF ZERINGUE

MANAGING EDITOR

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