Multiple partners

Supporting the Working Coast


The Challenge

Land loss, sea level rise, subsidence, and storms increasingly threaten the economic sustainability of Gulf coastal areas at a time when populations and infrastructure investments are rising.

More than two million people live in Louisiana’s coastal zone, many in communities that face increasing risk of flood from storms or severe rain events. The industries many residents depend on for their livelihood are no different. It has been estimated that three-week closure of Port Fourchon could result in the loss of $11.2 billion in business sales, more than $31. billion in household earnings, and more than 65,000 jobs lost. Read more about that study here.

At the same time, Louisiana is facing a coastal land loss crisis. Between 1932 and 2010, Louisiana lost more than 1,800 square miles of coastal land and is expected to lose an additional 2,250 square miles in the next 50 years if no action is taken. The state has aggressively worked to address this issue through the formation of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, which continues to build and improve coastal projects for better long-term stability. However, even the state recognizes the amount of work needed far outstrips the funding that has been identified so far meaning Louisiana’s vast coastal infrastructure faces immediate threats.

For this vital “Working Coast” to continue to flourish, the changing coastal context must be understood in a way that enables coastal businesses to manage risk, sustain the environment, and leverage opportunities to enhance resilience for the economy, the environment, and local communities.

The Approach

Partnering with industry, The Water Institute of the Gulf is working across the coastal zone with ports and industry to help address some of the challenges faced by infrastructure in these changing landscapes. The following are two examples of how the Institute is implementing its “Working Coast” strategies.

Port Fourchon

South Louisiana’s Port Fourchon plays a critical national economic security role by providing the U.S. with approximately 18% of its total oil supply and servicing over 90% of the Gulf of Mexico’s deepwater oil production.

As Port Fourchon continues to grow, there are plans to potentially deepen the port’s access channel which will yield millions of cubic yards of sediment. This situation presents a unique opportunity as the port will need to dispose of the material while also desiring additional storm protection.

The Institute has proudly worked to create a Public-Private Partnership with the Port, Shell, Chevron, and Danos to determine the best, nature-based way to use the dredged material to protect the port’s critical infrastructure, improve the environment; make communities from Fourchon to Larose more resilient; and yield carbon-capture sequestration benefits.

Lake Charles

The Port of Lake Charles faces challenges due to the large amounts of sediment flowing into the Calcasieu Ship Channel, forcing ongoing dredging. While the port has been proactive in finding ways to beneficially use the dredged sediment, the port seeks a sustainable way to better manage sediment through the system.

Currently, the Calcasieu Ship Channel must be dredged yearly to make sure it meets the 400-by 40-foot-deep federally mandated requirements. It’s estimated that the Port of Lake Charles will need to have 97 million cubic yards of disposal capacity for dredged material within the next 20 years.

In August 2017, the port tasked the Institute with providing a better understanding of how sediment moves through the ship channel as part of a strategy to reduce dredging needs and to evaluate alternative locations to find long-term and realistic dredge disposal sites.