Saving the Coast

POSTED: Thursday, March 19, 2009 - 6:57pm

UPDATED: Thursday, June 3, 2010 - 11:58pm

1.5 million acres is how much the Louisiana coast has lost over the last 70 years. One agency is hoping to bring back the coast with the help of federal stimulus money. Our David D’Aquin got a first-hand look at the work already being done.

Coastal Louisiana isn’t what it used to be. Erosion has been a huge problem, only made worse by last year’s hurricane season. Bob Dew of Duck’s Unlimited explains, “It’s roughly a football field every 30 minutes.” Picture a football field disappearing every 30 minutes. Scientists say that’s a reality on the coast of the Bayou State.

Fred Roetker, a Pilot Biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, says “The coastal erosion is a continuing process, but the hurricanes really speeded it up and that’s probably the biggest phenomena I’ve seen since I’ve been here.” Roetker has been flying along the Louisiana coast for 20 years and he’s seen improvements since Ducks Unlimited started building terraces. They’re basically small levees in the marsh that help retain the sediment and build up the coast, bringing in more wildlife. “It’s all about the groceries, if there’s groceries here, the ducks respond almost immediately. Within a year or two you start to see submerged aquatic plants and the ducks follow.”

Barrack Obama’s stimulus plan has a ton of money going to coastal restoration projections and Ducks Unlimited is hoping to get some cash to build more terraces along the coast. They’re putting together four proposals. Three of the four would include additional marsh terraces. The terraces are working, migrating ducks are returning.

More marsh means more protection from storm surges when hurricanes move through. Ducks Unlimited officials say the work they do wouldn’t be possible without the help from private property owners because about 80% of coastal Louisiana is privately owned. Ducks Unlimited has to apply for grants to get federal stimulus money, they’re facing an April 1st deadline. They tell us they’ll have their proposals submitted before then.