Southeastern Louisiana is sinking – fast.
In only 80 years 5,200 square kilometres of coast have become open ocean. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists say by 2100 “the Gulf of Mexico could rise as much as 4.3 feet across this landscape,” meaning that all of the infrastructure located outside of the protective levees will be underwater. These rising waters would consume most of southeastern Louisiana, which is home to half of the nation’s oil refineries, many transportation ports, 90% of U.S. offshore drilling pipelines and 2 million people.
The rising water levels in the Gulf of Mexico are being largely attributed to the oil and gas industry dredging a large amount (over 16,000 kilometres) of canals in the area.
The landscape on which all that is built is washing away at a rate of a football field every hour, 16 square miles per year.
For years, most residents didn’t notice because they live inside the levees and seldom travel into the wetlands. But even those who work or play in the marshes were misled for decades by the gradual changes in the landscape. A point of land eroding here, a bayou widening there, a spoil levee sinking a foot over 10 years.
In an ecosystem covering thousands of square miles, those losses seemed insignificant. There always seemed to be so much left. Now locals are trying to deal with the shock of losing places they had known all their lives — fishing camps, cypress swamps, beach fronts, even cattle pastures and backyards — with more disappearing every day.
(Source: Cross-posted from ProPublica and The Lens)