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Andrew Fox
Posted on Tuesday, March 13, 2007 - 11:37 am:   

If you happen to have ten or twelve free minutes, I highly recommend a visit to this animated online slide show, which documents the seventy-year decline of the Louisiana coast:

Although I'm not sure whether someone who doesn't live in Southeast Louisiana will or can experience the same bolt of scrotum-tightening fear that I did while watching this. I've read for many years about the gradual disappearance of the South Louisiana coast; the figure "one football field's worth of land lost every forty-five minutes" sticks in my head. But the scale and speed of the transformation of what is, essentially, my backyard never sank in. . . until I watched this slide show. I've lived her for more than twenty years, and that whole time I've been looking at maps of South Louisiana that actually date back to the 1930s. That's right, the common road maps that you buy at a drug store or a gas station picture the coast as it was prior to the oil and gas industry, along with the Army Corps of Engineers, digging hundreds of miles of access canals through the Terrebonne and St. Bernard wetlands, allowing salt water to intrude and kill the swamp grasses that held everything together. So I had a mental picture of the shape of Plaquemines Parish, the long peninsula directly to the south of New Orleans which surrounds the mouth of the Mississippi. . . only to learn that my mental picture hasn't been remotely connected to the truth for three quarters of a century.

To quote a currently popular (in NOLA) Benny Grunch and the Bunch song, Plaquemines Parish "ain't there no mo'." All that remains of the peninsula is a filament-like ribbon of land surrounding the lower part of the Mississippi, and that filament, I'm sure, only remains because of the levees built on either side of the river.

The animated graphic basically shows the Gulf of Mexico marching straight for the New Orleans metro area, eating everything in its path, becoming more voracious with each passing year. The accompanying articles state that Louisiana has only ten years to halt the progress of the Gulf, or else so little of the "skeleton" of South Louisiana's coastline will remain that a rebuilding effort will be prohibitively difficult and expensive. Given that it took until 1989 for the state and the Federal government to recognize the problem, and seeing how little they've accomplished since then, I can't say that I have much optimism for things turning around between now and 2017. Although I spoke with my friend Mark Schliefstein, who co-wrote the articles, to ask him whether he's put his house in Metairie up on the market yet, and he said he thinks there's still a chance for things to get turned around. He's a lot more knowledgeable than me, but still. . .
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Lori Smith
Posted on Wednesday, March 14, 2007 - 07:53 am:   

Yes, that was pretty frightening, but I first started being frightened a few years ago when I saw this map:

If New Orleans goes, it would only be another decade or two before the Gulf started chomping on my backyard.

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