When life gives you lemons
This year marks separate anniversaries of two
catastrophic environmental events for the US Gulf
Coast in general, and Louisiana in particular. It
was this time a decade ago that New Orleans and
surrounding regions were reeling from the fallout
of Hurricane Katrina, which caused the deaths of
more than a thousand residents while displacing
tens of thousands more.
Much of the more than $100 billion in damages
were attributed to the gradual loss of coastal wet-lands over the preceding decades.
A study published in 2007 by the US Geological
Survey found that between 1932 and 2000, more
than 1,900 square miles of land was lost—
greater than the size of Delaware—from Louisiana’s
coastal lands due to either erosion or subsidence.
Almost 5 years after Katrina and about 130
miles southeast of New Orleans, while the Gulf
Coast region was still in the midst of recovery from
the storm, the deepwater Macondo well blowout
and subsequent oil spill resulted in deaths of 11
workers and, according to a January ruling from
the US District Court for the Eastern District of
Louisiana, the discharge of 3. 19 million bbl of oil
into the Gulf of Mexico. Numerous species were
harmed, killed, or at best displaced from their
natural habitat while BP PLC worked to halt and
clean the gushing oil.
Gulf Coast preservation
In the years since Katrina, New Orleans has rebuilt
and the population has approached pre-Katrina
levels. The city’s economy has grown at a rate above
the national average, with job creation surging. Recovery has far exceeded expectations, and it seems
only another Act of God could halt the city’s momentum.
How the gulf region has recovered since Deepwater Horizon is less clear, as, for one, it’s impossible to track what became of all the oil that was
released into the sea.
For the trouble, BP in July agreed to settle fed-
eral and state Deepwater Horizon claims for $18.7
billion over an 18-year period. The principle tar-
get of money received from BP has been and will
be restoration of the Gulf Coast through entities
such as the Deepwater Horizon Natural Resources
Damage Assessment (NRDA) Early Restoration
Program. Thus far $318 million have been allocat-
ed for Louisiana outer coastal restoration, which
encompasses four projects.
One announced in June involves excavating
as much as 13. 4 million cu yards of high-quality
sand from Ship Shoal— 9 miles offshore on the
Outer Continental Shelf—and transporting it
through a temporary pipeline to construct 1, 100
acres of barrier island habitat at the Caillou Lake
Headlands, also known as Whiskey Island.
“Restoring barrier islands protects vital wet-lands along the Gulf Coast and is part of BOEM’s
continuing commitment to work with states and
communities to restore and protect our coasts
from the effects of storms and climate change,”
explained Abigail Ross Hopper, director of the US
Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
Four other recent projects along Louisiana’s
coastline have already used 11 million cu yards
of OCS sand: Caminada Headland Beach and
Dune Restoration Increment I, Cameron Parish
Shoreline Restoration, Raccoon Island Backbarrier
Marsh Restoration, and Pelican Island Restoration. BOEM notes that prior to the recent work,
the Holly Beach, La., coastal restoration project in
2002 was the only of its kind in the gulf to use
Additional restoration funding from BP and
Transocean Ltd. will funnel through the National
Fish & Wildlife Foundation, and Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund.
Action speaks loudest
Major projects requiring billions of dollars funneled
through government entities don’t typically reach
completion in one fell swoop. Hundreds of these
types of projects have been pitched to the organizations tasked with doling out restoration funds, with
only a small fraction reaching the implementation
Seeing through advancement of such projects
is critical. Because the long-term responses to Katrina and Deepwater Horizon should collectively
make the Gulf Coast more resilient than ever.