Vanishing Southern Louisiana
New images released from NOAA and USGS today illustrate the amount of territory lost in Southern Louisiana to rising seas and sinking lands. According to NOAA, “Every year, 25-35 square miles of land off the coast of Louisiana—an area larger than Manhattan–disappears into the water due to a combination of subsidence (soil settling) and global sea level rise.”
The images, above, show the same area of Southern Louisiana in 1932 and 2011. Yes, blue means water.
At the very tip of the coast lies Port Fourchon—one of the country’s major ports serving the deepwater oil and gas industry in the Gulf of Mexico. Next to it is Grand Isle, the last inhabited barrier island in Louisiana. Various beach restoration projects over the years have helped build up and maintain Grand Isle and other Louisiana’s barrier islands. They are the first line of defense against storms headed toward the mainland and New Orleans.
The Louisiana Highway 1 is the only road leading to Port Fourchon and Grand Isle. While the port sits on a five-foot ridge, much of the LA-1 highway is built on land only two feet in elevation. The highway is growing increasingly vulnerable to sea level rise, subsidence, and storm surge every year. One section of the road is so low that even small storm events cause flooding that makes it impassable. Disruptions to the infrastructure surrounding the port have the potential to impact every American at the gas pump.
Rising sea levels are not tomorrow’s challenge. It’s happening now.