Coastal Desk

Southeast Louisiana is sinking under the waves faster than any coastal landscape in the world. With so much at stake for Louisiana and the nation, WWNO has made coastal news a priority.

Since mid-2014 our Coastal Desk reporting team has been producing frequent news reports and in-depth features covering coastal erosion and restoration; hurricane protection; offshore energy and other coastal businesses; wildlife and fisheries impacts; and coastal communities and culture.

Support for the Coastal Desk comes from the Walton Family Foundation, the Greater New Orleans Foundation, and local listeners.

Subscribe to the Coastal Desk as a podcast:

1. Open iTunes

2. Go to the File Menu, click on Subscribe to Podcast…

3. Enter this URL: http://wwno.org/podcasts/70174/rss.xml

And that’s it! New episodes download automatically.

LSU/LUMCON

This year’s dead zone is the eighth largest on record in the Gulf of Mexico, though it’s size could have been impacted by Hurricane Barry last month.

The dead zone is an area of hypoxic, or low-oxygen, conditions that forms at the bottom of the Gulf every year. Fertilizers, which wash off of Midwestern agricultural fields and down the Mississippi River, fuel algae blooms in the Gulf of Mexico. As the algae dies the water loses oxygen, killing fish and other sea creatures.

Travis Lux / WWNO

Two disaster-related bills proposed this week in Congress could offer relief for Louisiana communities affected by extreme weather. One would create a permanent safety net program for commercial fishers who have suffered losses due to environmental damage. Another would create a special fund meant to help cities and towns build more resiliently.

Commercial Fishing and Aquaculture Protection Act of 2019

Environmental disasters can cause commercial fishers to lose money. This year, for example, Mississippi River flooding has dramatically reduced the catch of several kinds of seafood in both Mississippi and Louisiana.

Travis Lux / WWNO

Residents and a pair of environmental activist groups are suing St. James Parish over an alleged secret meeting that plaintiffs claim violated Louisiana Open Meetings Law.

Wanhua Chemical US Operation, LLC has proposed construction of a polyurethane facility on a 250 acre tract of land in Convent, Louisiana. On May 20th, 2019, the St. James Planning Commission voted 5-3 to approve the company’s industrial land use application for the site.

Claire Bangser

Louisiana’s coast is a unique mix of cultures. For hundreds of years Europeans, Africans and Native Americans have lived off the land and water. But that land is disappearing, battered by storms and rising seas, and people are migrating north.

Now, the state is trying to preserve some local traditions before they disappear.

CPRA

The Water Institute is a Baton Rouge-based research institution that works with the state and the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority on issues like land loss and river diversions. One of its former scientists is now under investigation by the FBI.

The Times Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate broke the story. WWNO’s Tegan Wendland talked with reporters Della Hasselle and Bryn Stole about the implications for coastal research.

Travis Lux / WWNO

Louisiana’s Department of Health is shutting down several oyster harvesting areas due to low salinity caused by a steady influx of freshwater from the Bonnet Carre Spillway. 

The spillway, which diverts flood water from the Mississippi River into Lake Pontchartrain, has been open for more than 95 days this year. That’s kept a steady stream of fresh water flowing into areas where oysters grow.

Travis Lux / WWNO

The commercial fishing industry on the Gulf Coast has seen two major disasters in the last 15 years: Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill. Now, some fear we’re on the cusp of a third. The culprit: historic flooding from the Mississippi River.

Travis Lux / WWNO

Over the last few years, Denka Performance Elastomer, a chemical plant in St. John the Baptist Parish, has been in trouble with the EPA for potential emissions violations. Now, Louisiana’s Department of Environmental Quality is planning to file a lawsuit against the company.

New Orleans Advocate reporter Della Hasselle has been reporting on this story, and spoke with WWNO’s Travis Lux about what we know, and where things might go from here.

 

 

CPRA

Local officials hope a major levee project along the central Louisiana coast is one step closer to receiving federal funding.

Morganza to the Gulf is a 98-mile levee project that, if completed, would curl around several communities and protect them from hurricane storm surges. It’s one of the biggest and most expensive projects in Louisiana’s Coastal Master Plan.

Travis Lux / WWNO

Louisiana’s Coastal Master Plan is the state’s guide for restoring its disappearing coastline and defending cities from rising seas. It includes things like levees and rebuilding marshes. But how does the state decide where to build projects? How does it decide what kind of project to build? And how is climate change considered?

All month long, WWNO is teaming up with Louisiana Public Broadcasting to bring you a special series called Sinking Louisiana. This week, WWNO’s Travis Lux talks talks with Bren Haase, Executive Director of the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), about how the state makes big decisions that impact lots of people. They spoke at the CPRA headquarters in Baton Rouge.

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