Louisiana is challenged with the largest land loss crisis in North America: the loss of a football field of land every hour. When asked, citizens say that restoration of the state’s coastline is the most pressing environmental challenge of our lifetime. Coastal erosion will result in a loss of ecosystem services that protect communities, wildlife habitat and economic infrastructure essential to our economy and a stable environment.
America's WETLAND, the seventh largest delta on earth and the largest port system in the U.S., is of world ecological significance. The potential collapse of this intricate ecosystem will have negative environmental consequences for wildlife habitat and marine life. This working coast is an economic engine for the entire nation, producing much of America’s seafood, moving commodities and goods in and out of the country and housing a vast energy network on and offshore that serves the entire nation and keeps America secure.
In 2002, the America’s WETLAND Foundation (AWF) was launched with the goal of raising public awareness of the impact wetland loss has on the state, nation and world and gaining support for saving our coastline. This ongoing public education effort has helped elevate coastal land loss from a local or state issue to a national and international one.
In early 2016, Community Coffee Company joined AWF and Gulf Coast industry and civic leaders in developing and implementing the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW) Shoreline Stabilization and Restoration project in Lafourche Parish, Louisiana. For decades, navigable waterways designed to support commerce, such as the GIWW, have been lost to tidal surge. The resulting shoreline creep has led to widening canals, threatening freshwater marshes with saltwater intrusion and eroding private lands bordering the canals.
The restoration project restored a one-mile stretch of embankment on the Gulf-facing/south side of the GIWW and featured the use of a vegetated, recycled plastic matrix foundation, Vegetated EcoShield™, an emerging “green infrastructure” solution. Creating this “living shoreline” will protect and fortify the embankment by promoting vegetative growth and building a habitat for wildlife, waterfowl and aquatic life.
The project serves as a model of cooperation among private landowners, NGOs, state and federal agencies and private investment, dramatically reducing the time and costs of shoreline stabilization. AWF is confident this type of shoreline restoration can be a game changer all along the GIWW in Louisiana and Texas and can serve as a best practice for similar projects nationally, in which traditional technology such as rock dikes continue to be ineffective, unfeasible and expensive.
Through public opinion polling by AWF over the years, citizens see teamwork between government and the private sector as critical when it comes to saving both environmental and economic resources along Louisiana’s coast.