As I flew out of New Orleans after the holidays this year, I looked down on the bayous that border what’s known mainly as the 9th Ward. Having lived in New Orleans and Metairie (a suburb) we all knew how low the 9th Ward was, and that when there was a severe enough storm (considering that Lake Pontchartrain is like a saucer) it would flood big time. And yet they built houses there.
Call it bayou or wetlands, it’s much the same. In Florida we’re busy building new subdivisions, pushing the wetlands and all the creatures who have for centuries occupied the wetlands, into a state of strangulation.
Louisiana’s wetlands are in an environmental emergency as it disappears before our very eyes. If something is not done now, the reversal process will be too difficult to save the wetlands or Louisiana’s entire southern coast. Two estuaries, the Barataria and Terrebonne basins, are the most rapidly eroding estuaries on earth. We’re losing time. Since the erosion began, Louisiana alone has lost 2000 squre miles of wetlands – 1.2 million acres. Approximately 25-30 squre miles of Louisiana’s wetlands disappear each year. By 2050, another 435,000 acres and, if nothing is done, it will be gone by 2075.
Within the bayous are fishermen and trappers – a way of life unique to Louisiana. This area hosts one of the largest seafood nurseries in the nation. Here in Florida, we’re busy paving over our wetlands which borders on insanity, but we’ll place it at the feet of greed. What’s the interpretation of federal and state policies calling for ‘”NO NET LOSS OF WETLANDS”? We stand on soapboxes, talk “green” and ecotourism until our throats are dry, and the crowd has gone home…
The Florida Army Corps of Engineers between 1999 and 2003 approved 12,000 permits in Florida which permitted wetlands to be destoryed – they cannot be replaced.
Paving Paradise: Florida’s Vanishing Wetlands & the Failure of No net Loss – By Craig Pitman and Matthew Waite
Bayou Farewell: The Rich Life & Tragic Death of Louisiana’s Cajun Coast – By Mike Tidwell (March, 2003)