An update on Multiple Lines of Defense during this storm season

John Lopez

As events are unfolding, with Hurricane Laura approaching Lake Charles our hearts are with the communities that will suffer, but it is also a harsh reminder to us all of the dire situation of all the residents of coastal Louisiana in which annually hurricanes aim for our weakened coast.  Rightfully, coastal restoration has broad bi-partisan and almost universal support in Louisiana, and that’s the good news.  The bad news is that the job is far from done.   

The state, parishes, and most others embraced the Multiple Lines of Defense as a “kitchen-sink” or “all-hands” approach to do all that can be done to build-up our protection from hurricanes.   We need levees to protect dense populations, but we need our coastal wetlands to protect those levees.  The state is working furiously to get many complex projects done – the various components of the lines of defense. Much has been accomplished.  Large-scale marsh creation projects have been completed and more are on the way. Many barrier islands have been restored and the Chandeleur Islands restoration is being developed.  

However, our big guns remain holstered. Sediment Diversions can build and sustain more land. It is using nature not fighting nature to reconnect the Mississippi River to rebuild our coast.  Anything less is taking a knife to a gunfight.  

Diversions are complex projects and there is a need for appropriate analysis, BUT these diversions have been discussed and scientifically vetted for more than three decades.  Most of the current specific diversion projects have been “on the books” for more than a decade often with multiple and federal and state agencies’ approval.  The Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion even now is years from starting construction, and so would not be completed for at least seven or eight years.  Some might think this is the necessary time, but consider this:  World War II was fought and won in half that time.  How is it that projects with such broad scientific, public, and agency support are a never-ending do-loop?  

As Hurricane Laura reminds us, hurricanes are not stopping.  There is another big storm in the future for SE Louisiana. Let’s use all our big-boy tools including diversions, and be prepared with the Multiple Lines of Defense.