Growing Returns

Selected tag(s): Louisiana

From Louisiana to New York, coastal leaders come together to build climate resilience

As extreme weather takes a greater toll, states are creating a new government position to confront climate challenges and keep residents safe. Nearly one dozen states have hired Chief Resilience Officers (CROs) in various areas of government, including the governor’s office, state departments of environment or state departments of public safety.

These officers are charged with improving collaboration internally across government and externally with the public — and to have a coordinated approach to securing and spending federal disaster resources.

CROs are often working urgently to respond to previous disasters while also shaping forward-looking strategies to build a more resilient future for their state. With such a high-stress, high-stakes job, it’s essential that these leaders collaborate and learn from one another.

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Ten years after the BP oil spill, restoration offers hope for the Gulf

This blog post is co-authored with colleagues from National Audubon Society, the National Wildlife Federation, The Nature Conservancy and Ocean Conservancy.

On April 20, 2010, the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, killing 11 men and spewing an estimated 134 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico over the following 87 days. It was the largest oil spill in U.S. history, and it wreaked incredible harm on the ecosystem, wildlife and communities of the Gulf. Read More »

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An infrastructure stimulus will make America more resilient, if we get it right

Congress is currently focused on passing a series of stimulus relief bills to support medical professionals, hospitals, individuals and small businesses in an attempt to mitigate the worst effects of the global coronavirus pandemic.

Policymakers must prioritize human health and safety. But the hope is that, sooner than later, the spread of the virus will slow and Congress will be able to turn its attention to kickstarting the economy.

An infrastructure bill represents a significant bipartisan opportunity to spur job growth and economic activity, while also building resilience for communities at risk from flooding and extreme weather. Read More »

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In Louisiana, brown pelicans emerge as a sign of hope, recovery and resilience

With spring underway, thousands of brown pelicans are returning to nest on Queen Bess Island — a bird rookery island south of New Orleans in Louisiana’s Barataria Bay. What may seem like an ordinary annual event is actually quite remarkable, and a promising sign of recovery and resilience for Louisiana’s state bird.

Brown pelicans have returned to nest on Queen Bess Island following a massive restoration project. Photo credit: Halle Parker, National Audubon Society.

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To preserve its coast, Louisiana must plan for the future

By Dr. Denise Reed, Professor Gratis, University of New Orleans

Coastal Louisiana has changed a lot in the last century. By comparing aerial photographs from the 1930s to today, we can see that change across the coast from an ecosystem once dominated by extensive marshes and lush swamps to one increasingly covered with open water and “ghost forests.”

Each year, our coast creeps farther inland as marshy shorelines erode due to boat wakes, wind and waves. This is called marsh edge erosion, and it’s one of the primary causes of Louisiana’s current land loss crisis.

Future land loss, however, will be driven by different causes. To better understand and prepare for future scenarios, EDF convened a team of scientists from its own organization, the University of New Orleans, Tulane University, The Water Institute of the Gulf and the National Wildlife Federation. Together, we used computer models and data from Louisiana’s 2017 Coastal Master Plan to look ahead 50 years and explore the effects of varying sea-level rise and subsidence rates, known as relative sea-level rise.

The recently published results were illuminating and sobering. Here is the main takeaway for Louisiana:

Climate change accelerates land loss.
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2019 made climate impacts visible. Here are 4 stories of resilience that give me hope for 2020.

This year has been one of the toughest yet for communities across the country feeling the impacts of climate change.

Farmers took big hits from unprecedented flooding in the Midwest, coastal communities were pummeled with record-breaking rainfall and storms, and more than 250,000 acres in my home state of California burned from wildfires that took precious lives and left millions of people without power for days on end. As we enter a new decade, these four stories of resilience provide hope that we will take bold climate action in 2020. Click To Tweet

It’s easy to feel hopeless hearing one climate disaster story after another. But if you look around, there are also stories of resilience that can provide hope for the future. Here are four that inspire me. Read More »

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Coastal states need resilience plans. Here are six essential elements.

Coastal states are turning to resilience planning to confront extreme weather and climate change. New Jersey, North Carolina and Florida have all hired chief resilience officers to oversee their states’ resilience strategies. Louisiana has been a leader in coastal resilience for more than a decade.

In 2007, in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Louisiana embarked on its first of three Coastal Master Plans – science-based and publicly-informed coastal resilience plans. With each iteration, Louisiana improved the science, enriched public engagement and increased transparency in decision-making to build plans that were unanimously approved by the state legislature three times.

Based on this experience, here are six essential elements that states should include in their coastal resilience plans: Read More »

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Looking to history to fix Louisiana’s land loss crisis

Tyler Ortego reaches over the side of his boat and grabs the top of a wooden stake that protrudes just above the waterline. Lifting it high, he reveals a dark cluster of what looks like small rocks, attached to the stake’s muddy end.

“Oysters,” he says and smiles. Read More »

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Repeat opening of Bonnet Carré Spillway is a sign we need to manage rivers differently

Earlier this month, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opened the Bonnet Carré Spillway north of New Orleans for the second time this year to relieve pressure on the Mississippi River levees and protect communities in south Louisiana from catastrophic flooding.

It was the first time in the structure’s nearly century-old existence that it had been opened twice in the same year. When the Corps opened the spillway in February, it was the first opening in back-to-back years.

Corps Maj. Gen. Richard Kaiser recognized this unprecedented occurrence in response to the wettest period in 124 years, saying, “This is not business as usual.” What was designed as an emergency flood control system has increasingly become a default safety valve, as climate change and increased precipitation throughout the Mississippi River Valley only further stress the system.

This is a sign that we need to re-think how we manage our rivers and revisit operations of a system designed nearly a century ago. Read More »

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States are turning to data and interactive maps to help residents confront and manage flood risks

2019 has been an unprecedented year for flooding, even before the start of hurricane season. Despite the number of devastating hurricanes in recent years, a new University of Notre Dame study published in Climatic Change found that most coastal residents do not plan to take preventative action to reduce damages.

In addition to speeding up the recovery process, taking action before disaster strikes can help homeowners reduce damages, save money and even lives. For riverine floods, every dollar spent before a disaster saves $7 in property loss, business interruption and death.

So how can individuals, businesses and the public sector be incentivized to make proactive investments to reduce vulnerability before a disaster strikes? The first step is clearly understanding risks—now and in the future—and having concrete recommendations for how to mitigate them.

In the past, FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Rate Maps have been the source for this information; however, these probability-based maps have not resonated with most people as they rely on the obscure “100-year floodplain” concept. Being told you live in an area that has a 1 percent chance of flooding any given year does not inspire action, nor does it reflect the reality of a changing climate.

In recent years, states have stepped up with more robust tools that give residents a clearer depiction of risks and resources for how to reduce them. Three states stand out. Read More »

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