This is a map from a study released just this month by Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), and produced jointly by the Rand Corporation and Louisiana State University. It’s a map of how Louisiana’s coast will look in 50 years without any coastal restoration:

  • Red represents land loss;
  • Blue represents what would be flooded in a storm;
  • Yellow represents population centers.

CPRA commissioned this study to measure the effects of not pursuing an aggressive coastal restoration policy. Or, as one of the study’s authors put it: “Louisiana will have hurricanes. They will cause a lot of destruction. What we’ve measured is how much more destruction do we get because of land loss?”

The answer, as this map shows, is terrifying for just about anyone living in South Louisiana. Whole cities, towns, and industrial centers will be under water. Lake Pontchartrain will be more like a bay than a lake. New Orleans – the patch of yellow at the bottom of Lake Pontchartrain – will be on the brink of disappearing into the Gulf of Mexico.

The CPRA study also predicts staggering economic costs if Louisiana doesn’t pursue a coastal restoration plan:

  • Louisiana taxpayers will have to pay about $2 billion to $3.5 billion to replace lost buildings and infrastructure
  • The state and its citizens will lose about $5.8 billion to $7.4 billion annually in business and other economic activity.
  • The state and its citizens will face up to $133 billion in increased storm damage costs, as it becomes more and more vulnerable to hurricanes and floods.

And that’s not the end of the bad news.

In November, the Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law & Policy released a new study finding that our state government is currently facing a $70+ billion shortfall in the funds it will need to pursue its Coastal Master Plan, Louisiana’s blueprint for coastal restoration.

How can the state face a $70+ billion shortfall when the Master Plan itself was supposed to cost only $50 billion over 50 years? According to the Tulane study, the discrepancy has to do with the Jindal administration’s flawed accounting methods:

  • Jindal’s 2012 Master Plan budget doesn’t properly account for inflation, building costs, maintenance, or operating costs.
  • The budget pushes major costs onto state and local government, then doesn’t account for those costs.
  • The budget also does not account for the state’s obligation to pay for 35 percent of a $3 billion Army Corps of Engineers plan to restore wetlands along the MRGO.
  • Finally, the Tulane study also found that, since 2012, the state has fallen behind on the Master Plan’s recommended spending schedule, which will put more pressure on future administrations to pay to complete the plan.

Author: John T. Arnold

For more information on the CPRA/Rand/LSU study, see The Lens, 12/2,and The Houma Courier, 12/5.

For more information on the Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law & Policy study, see The Times Picayune, 11/6.