Gulf of Mexico
Grand Terre rock breakwater under construction. Photo by CPRA

LA - Guest column: Louisiana's coastal plan is a proven playbook for other states

Communities across our country are enduring the impacts of extreme weather, from hurricanes and flooding along our coasts and watersheds to drought and wildfires in the West. These disasters are disrupting lives and livelihoods, and scientists indicate these impacts will only grow more severe without action.

However, an unprecedented opportunity exists now to invest in a more climate-ready future. Leaders at the state and local levels can leverage funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to look beyond just roads and bridges and strengthen our nation’s natural infrastructure. By restoring wetlands and floodplains and strengthening aquifers, we can invest in solutions that protect people, property and natural resources.

If state governments are seeking inspiration about where to begin, they should look to Louisiana’s playbook and listen to the people and communities turning conservation plans into action. Having spent decades working to restore the fragile ecosystems of the Gulf Coast region, Louisianians know firsthand how powerful these efforts have been and how other states can learn from the experiences.

Recent research shows that wetlands provide $450 billion in annual global protection along coastal regions and help save 4,600 lives each year. Projects that utilize these natural solutions are faster to implement than seawalls or levees, improve quality of life for nearby residents, provide jobs, clean water and enhance wildlife habitat. Moreover, they’re popular: Restoring wetlands to mitigate climate impacts is backed by 82% of Americans, with support across the political spectrum.

With voters largely aligned around these concepts, the next challenge is creating alignment among communities, experts and policymakers at all levels — which is where Louisiana offers a compelling model. In the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, local, state and federal leaders developed Louisiana’s Coastal Master Plan, a uniquely comprehensive guide to restoring and safeguarding its coast.

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