Climate change-fueled flooding could hit Louisiana the hardest. Can it be stopped?

May 31, 2021

The report's findings are supported by Louisiana's Coastal Master Plan, a planned 50-year, $50 billion effort to study the threats of climate change, land loss and implement countermeasures in coastal parishes.

While First Street’s analysis focused solely on residential property damage, the Coastal Master Plan projects that Louisiana's total annual flood damage will increase from $2.7 billion to $12.1 billion over the next half century.

Protecting Louisiana's dissolving coastline is paramount to mitigating the risk, said Jordan Fischbach, director of planning and policy research at The Water Institute of the Gulf, who has assisted with the Master Plan for the past decade.

The state lost 1,900 sq. mi. of marshland between 1932 and 2010, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Over the next 50 years, the Master Plan predicts the state could lose another 2,250 sq. mi. as sea levels rise between 1-3 feet and stronger hurricanes inundate the coast.

"The coast as we as we knew it decades ago is no longer there. The coast that we know today is not going to be the Louisiana coast that we have in the future," Fischbach said. "So the Master Plan tries to build toward a sustainable coast, while acknowledging that not all areas can be saved."

Island Road is the only road connecting Isle de Jean Charles to the mainland. Residents say it floods at high tide.

While the entirety of the needed $50 billion has not been procured yet, the plan's 124 projects ranging from levees to marsh creation could save or create 800 sq. mi. of coastland. Fischbach said that could reduce the annual flood risk from $12 billion to $3.8 billion by year 50 of the plan.

Further inland, a separate state-led endeavor called the Louisiana Watershed Initiative has allocated $163 million to improve drainage infrastructure and floodplain management north of the coast.

"The question is, do you invest before disasters to make communities more resilient, and reduce these impacts, or do you spend the money post-disaster trying to clean up and rebuild again?" Fischbach said. "Research shows that investments pre-disaster are much more cost effective." Read the full story here.