coastal-louisiana

10 Year Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina

Today marks the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Katrina was only a Category 3 hurricane when it hit New Orleans in August 2005. But circumstances conspired to make it one of the worst disasters in U.S. history. The ingredients for disaster were in place before Katrina even hit.

  • New Orleans is almost entirely below sea level and surrounded by water.
  • City officials had known for years that a major hurricane could cause the levees (walls that hold the water back) to fail. But the problem was never addressed, even as the planet warmed and sea levels rose.
  • Meanwhile the canals and floodwalls built to make the Louisiana coast habitable for humans have displaced the sediments that support its wetlands.
  • Louisiana’s coastal wetlands, which form a natural barrier against hurricanes, are disappearing at a rate of 33 football fields a day.

We won’t soon forget what happened. People trapped on rooftops after the water had risen through the floorboards, poured through windows and filled the attic. Mothers and small children—and children without their mothers—stranded for days in the overcrowded Superdome. New Orleans, one of America’s most vibrant and visited cities, underwater.

Hurricanes have many ways of doing us harm: high winds, storm surge, flooding. But people contribute to the problem. We build on vulnerable coastlines and below sea level. Our industry erodes the land that protects us. There will always be natural disasters. Are we turning them into unnatural disasters?

Learn more about hurricanes and their causes

An American Village Is Being Abandoned Because of Rising Seas

For the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Native Americans who live in coastal Louisiana, climate change is a very harsh reality. They are fleeing their island reservation because of rising water levels.

The group has called the Isle de Jean Charles home for a century, but are now moving inland with the help in federal assistance. Over the last 60 years, the group has lost 98 percent of its land to coastal flooding, erosion, and other effects of rising sea levels. The entire population is now packed into an area less than a square mile. read more here

This quote hits the nail on the head:

Image credit: Karen Apricot, via Flickr

ThinkProgress: Four Part Must Read Series On The Louisiana Wetlands

Can Louisiana Hold Oil Companies Accountable For Its Vanishing Coastline?

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA — Flying due south from the shores of Lake Pontchartrain, the Louisiana coast looks at first just as it did decades ago, with thick, marshy wetlands broken only by freshwater lakes and streams. Within minutes, however, that landscape gives way to a different scene: tufts of grass clinging to tiny slivers of land, the wild curves of the remaining patches broken by thousands of razor-straight lines where oil and gas companies have laid pipelines and dredged canals to give their boats easier access to the rigs and wells that dot the coastline. Just below the water, the murky outline of recently submerged land is visible from 1,000 feet in the air.

These Native American Tribes Are Fighting To Stop Their Land From Literally Disappearing

DULAC, LOUISIANA — Shortly after the sun rose over the southern coastal bayous of Louisiana, a group of United Houma Nation tribal members and environmental advocates, many of whom had just returned from fishing and crabbing trips, gathered to discuss a threat that looms larger every day. “The seas are rising and so are we,” they chanted at the end of a traditional ‘unity clap.’ The group came together on tribal lands that are quickly disappearing into the Gulf of Mexico — taking not only the ground beneath their feet but generations of culture and their traditional way of life.

The ‘Sacrifice Zone’: Life As A Fisherman Along Louisiana’s Vanishing Coastline

ST. BERNARD PARISH, LOUISIANA — The two powerhouse industries in the state of Louisiana — fossil fuels and seafood — have been locked in a fraught dance for decades, intimately tied together but frequently at odds in the same shrinking coastal estuaries.

With Fracking Threatening Its Sole Drinking Water Source, A Coastal Community Fights Back

ABITA SPRINGS, LOUISIANA — Since its founding as a Native American trading village, Abita Springs has staked its reputation on its clean air and pure waters. Princess Abita of the Choctaw tribe, as thelocal legend goes, was wasting away in filthy New Orleans in the 1780s until she traveled north and drank from the healing spring that gave the town its name.

Follow ThinkProgress

4

These Native American Tribes Are Fighting To Stop Their Land From Literally Disappearing

DULAC, LOUISIANA — Shortly after the sun rose over the southern coastal bayous of Louisiana, a group of United Houma Nation tribal members and environmental advocates, many of whom had just returned from fishing and crabbing trips, gathered to discuss a threat that looms larger every day. “The seas are rising and so are we,” they chanted at the end of a traditional ‘unity clap.’ The group came together on tribal lands that are quickly disappearing into the Gulf of Mexico — taking not only the ground beneath their feet but generations of culture and their traditional way of life.

One tribal artist described how her father’s medicine plants are dying from saltwater intrusion, while another worried that her community would migrate north and abandon the land where she once climbed trees as a young girl. Left with few protections and without recognition from the federal government, the tribal members’ agreed that their struggle has largely been ignored, leaving them no choice but to take matters into their own hands.

“They think we’re not going to fight back, but we have,” said Clarice Friloux, the outreach coordinator for the United Houma Nation who called herself an environmentalist “not by choice.”

Follow ThinkProgress

ThinkProgress 3 Part Series on the Louisiana wetland

Can Louisiana Hold Oil Companies Accountable For Its Vanishing Coastline?

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA — Flying due south from the shores of Lake Pontchartrain, the Louisiana coast looks at first just as it did decades ago, with thick, marshy wetlands broken only by freshwater lakes and streams. Within minutes, however, that landscape gives way to a different scene: tufts of grass clinging to tiny slivers of land, the wild curves of the remaining patches broken by thousands of razor-straight lines where oil and gas companies have laid pipelines and dredged canals to give their boats easier access to the rigs and wells that dot the coastline. Just below the water, the murky outline of recently submerged land is visible from 1,000 feet in the air.

These Native American Tribes Are Fighting To Stop Their Land From Literally Disappearing

DULAC, LOUISIANA — Shortly after the sun rose over the southern coastal bayous of Louisiana, a group of United Houma Nation tribal members and environmental advocates, many of whom had just returned from fishing and crabbing trips, gathered to discuss a threat that looms larger every day. “The seas are rising and so are we,” they chanted at the end of a traditional ‘unity clap.’ The group came together on tribal lands that are quickly disappearing into the Gulf of Mexico — taking not only the ground beneath their feet but generations of culture and their traditional way of life.

The ‘Sacrifice Zone’: Life As A Fisherman Along Louisiana’s Vanishing Coastline

ST. BERNARD PARISH, LOUISIANA — The two powerhouse industries in the state of Louisiana — fossil fuels and seafood — have been locked in a fraught dance for decades, intimately tied together but frequently at odds in the same shrinking coastal estuaries.

Follow ThinkProgress

nola.com
The $50 billion plan to save Louisiana's coast gets a rewrite
'The message is significantly more severe than any of us thought even 5 or 10 years ago', governor's chief adviser says

“For those who have never seen these pictures before, it’s a shock,” said King Milling, chairman of the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Coastal Protection, Restoration and Conservation. “For those who have seen them, in relationship to historic understandings, it’s still a shock because I think the message … is significantly more severe than any of us thought even 5 or 10 years ago.”

Indeed, in rewriting the master plan for 2017, state officials have quietly abandoned the 2012 version’s prediction of “no net loss” by 2035. Previously they thought they could stabilize land loss in the next two decades, then begin adding land to the coast. Now, however, they say it will take much longer just to break even – if ever.

Southeast Louisiana isn’t alone in facing such a bleak future, according to the two maps. On the west side of the state, the land-change map wipes away much of the Chenier Plain wetland ridges that make up Cameron and Vermilion parishes. And it moves the Gulf Coast shoreline perilously close to Houma, Raceland and Larose. The storm surge map predicts a 100-year hurricane would flood parts of Lafourche Parish 15 feet deep.

Looking at the maps in this article, the plans may be too little, too late. There is serious trouble in Louisiana’s future - if there are storms and floods every year, they won’t be able to afford aggressive plans such as this restoration plan. Maybe it’s time to consider condemning land and relocation people?

vimeo

Can’t Stop The Water

USA: The Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw People Flee Coast Due to Rising Sea Levels

A small Native American Cajun community in coastal Louisiana is to be resettled after losing nearly all its land, believed to be caused in part by rising sea levels, making it the first case of its kind in the United States.

The band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw, a Native American nation living in the Louisiana coastal wetlands, has lost some 98 percent of its land since the 1950s.

This is the first time an entire community has had to be relocated in part due to rising sea levels, said Marion McFadden, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The land loss is also due to factors such as erosion and sediment mismanagement, a Louisiana official said.

The band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw have lived and fished on the Isle de Jean Charles in Louisiana’s coastal south since the 1800s, a spokesperson for the nation said.

But land loss has caused the island to shrink from some 15,000 acres to a strip of about a quarter-mile wide by a half-mile long, a study by Northern Arizona University shows.

From a peak of some 400 inhabitants, only around 100 remain. The loss of land to the sea and houses to hurricanes have caused families to leave, said Boyo Billiot, the nation’s deputy chief, in a telephone briefing to reporters.

“No one likes to leave an area where they have history, a lot of memories,” said Billiot. “We are people of the bayou. Water has played a central role in who we are.”

Climate advocacy group Climate Nexus said the relocation of the nation was creating new “refugees” of climate change.

But Louisiana and federal government officials offered a different interpretation.

“We really don’t think of the community as refugees. I think of refugees as being scattered and [a] chaotic retreat. This is a resettlement and we are careful to use that word,” said Patrick Forbes, a Louisiana state official.

The relocation will be subsidized by around US$48 million in government funds and will take a few years to complete.

Louisiana’s coast has been sinking at a fast pace compared to most U.S. coastal areas, a phenomenon officials attribute to rising sea levels and erosion, the official said. Sea levels have already risen by some eight inches in coastal Louisiana over the last 50 years or so.

The plight of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Natives was documented in the 2010 documentary “Can’t Stop the Water.”

According to a 2014 U.S. government report, as global sea levels continue to rise, the effects will be greater on certain coastlines such as Louisiana and Texas.

The continuous decline of the band of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw population has been threatening the nation’s ancestral traditions, including those related to fishing such as the weaving of catch-nets.

“As the people leave out, culture goes with it,” said Billiot.

Reflecting on the nation’s attachment to Isle de Jean Charles, he recalled his late grandfather’s prophetic words.

“He said…‘The people will have to leave from the island’. But he said you all don’t disturb the dead that are buried there because now a lot are in the water where the graves were at.”

The deep roots of Louisiana’s traditional music

Thanks to Nathan Salsburg for the heads up on this remarkable collection of archival recordings from the great state of Louisiana. Tons of stuff to dig into here. A treasure trove! 

“This site is a digital resource for the study of the 1934 John and Alan Lomax trip to lower Louisiana, where they recorded a diverse array of songs in English and in Louisiana French. The recordings they made are part of the Lomax Collection, housed at the Library of Congress in the American Folklife Center. This website was developed as part of a John W. Kluge Center Alan Lomax Fellowship by fellow Joshua Clegg Caffery, author of Traditional Music in Coastal Louisiana, which contains transcriptions, translations, and annotations of these recordings.”