Louisiana's lessons for Virginia on building water economy

Louisiana has known for decades — or longer — that the Gulf of Mexico was gobbling up its coastline. It’s estimated that the state loses a football field of wetlands every 40 minutes. And, since 1932, along a portion of the coast, the gulf has migrated 10 miles inland.

“So, just imagine if the Chesapeake Bay was moving toward your communities 10 miles since 1932,” said systems ecologist Robert Twilley. “This is not about people moving toward the coast — this is the coast moving toward people.”

Twilley is executive director of the Louisiana Sea Grant Program and chairman of the board for the Coastal Sustainability Studio at Louisiana State University. He was in Hampton Roads recently for a fact-finding discussion and conference on “Building a Resilient Virginia” at the Virginia Coastal Policy Center of the College of William and Mary School of Law.

Twilley and other sustainability experts from his state laid out how their public and private sectors, academia and even the military are actively collaborating not just on addressing the gulf’s ever-changing coastal landscape, but how to build a vibrant water economy around it.

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