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Coastal Rundown: Dr. John Lopez, Mr. Charlie And New Orleans To Venice

Frank Relle

MEET: Dr. John Lopez (the other Dr. John)

Dr. Lopez is a coastal scientist and the Director of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation’s Coastal Sustainability Program. Before this he worked in the oil and gas industry, as well as a stint with the Army Corps of Engineers, where he handled project assignments under the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act.

Dr. Lopez developed the Multiple Lines of Defense Strategy, integrating flood protection and coastal restoration, and chaired the Lake Pontchartrain Artificial Reef Working Group that has constructed nine reefs in the lake. He received the Conservationist of the Year Award in 2008 from the Louisiana Wildlife Federation, and the Coastal Zone 05 Conference Award from NOAA.

Keep an ear out for John Lopez on our airwaves — he’ll be delivering some of the first Coastal Glossary terms that we’ll be defining on the radio as we get them straight ourselves. Like this one:

Turbidity: Turbidity is something that we perceive and measure in water, often water that is found in a river or a stream. it indicates particles that are in the water, aside from water itself. It often represents sediment — clays, sand and other materials suspended in the water, often because of the water movement.

Hear more from Dr. Lopez:

Credit Jesse Hardman / WWNO
Mr. Charlie was the first transportable, submersible oil drilling rig.


What: The very first offshore oil rig, located in Morgan City.

"Mr. Charlie" was named after oil man Charles H. Murphy. As the first ever transportable, submersible drilling rig, "Mr. Charlie" starting drilling offshore wells off the coast of Morgan City for Shell Oil Company in 1954. His barge is approximately 220 feet long, 85 feet wide and 14 feet deep, and was capable of drilling well in water depths of up to 40 feet. Mr. Charlie was retired in late 1986 when drilling activity headed into water deeper than his "feet." The rig has been preserved, and now serves as a museum and training for offshore workers.


You’ve heard of Morganza to the Gulf, but what about New Orleans to Venice? That’s Venice, LA, by the way. The NOV plan is currently underway in Plaquemines Parish, and aims to give the federal levees straddling the Mississippi River an upgrade.

On the east bank, an additional 16 miles of levee will extend from Phoenix to Bohemia, LA, and the west bank is getting another 34 miles from St. Jude to Venice. According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, this project will achieve storm risk reduction for the Parish at the maximum level authorized by Congress. NOV was actually 85% finished prior to Hurricane Katrina, but funding setbacks slowed work. Construction is back in action, but there is no estimated project completion date as of yet.

Credit U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
The New Orleans to Venice project 'corridor'.


Listen: How Can Businesses Climate Proof Themselves?

Three of the top six years for catastrophic insurance losses have taken place since 2005, and scientists agree that climate change has played a major role. WBUR’s Here and Now spoke with Kyle Beatty, president of Verisk Climate, which provides businesses with guidance that can help mitigate the consequences of severe weather events.

Read: Louisiana Importing Oysters to Meet Demand

Undercurrent News reports suppliers in Louisiana have been buying oysters from other Gulf and East Coast states to keep up with demand.

Look: Michel Varisco

Photographer (and native New Orleanian) Michel Varisco has been documenting coastal erosion from distinct vantage points, including a small airplane, a great perspective to see geographic shifts in the wetland landscape. Hear our interview with her here

PS: Missed our Chauvin trip? Check out these images from our 'Vanishing Points' tour. 

Credit Laine Kaplan-Levenson / WWNO
A row of dead cypress tress along Highway 57 between Cocodrie and Dulac, Louisiana.

Support for WWNO's Coastal Desk comes from the Walton Family Foundation, the Greater New Orleans Foundation, the Kabacoff Family Foundation and WWNO Members.