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Louisiana coastal wetlands and marshes removed from maps

The extent of the loss of Louisiana's wetland and marshes has never been more evident than when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration spent the last few months creating new maps of the state's coastal areas. In total, forty bayous, bays, islands and rivulets have been forever removed from the latest maps -- because these areas are no longer there. For some locals, watching the destruction and injury to these wetlands is heartbreaking.

The Office of Coastal Survey of the NOAA is tasked with making sure the maps of the area are correct. The chief cartographer said that the removals in Plaquemines Parish is unprecedented. There could be more areas added to the list of removals, too, as the surveyors are still working on the Gulf Coast area.

Louisiana has lost so much land -- the loss is more the size of Rhode Island. It's 1,800 square miles and much of the loss can be attributed to the oil and gas industry building canals and dredging. Lawsuits, such as the one by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East, seek to hold oil and gas companies responsible for that damage. Jefferson and Plaquemines Parishes have filed a lawsuit against almost thirty oil and gas companies, while the SLFPA-E has filed suit against 97.

The lawsuits have been strongly opposed by the governor and his administration. Gov. Jindal has refused to reappoint members of the SLFPA-E's board who support the litigation. However, these new maps may make it easy to see how dire the erosion and damage to the coastal areas has become.

While there is nothing that can be done to bring back the land that is lost, the lawsuits may help hold the oil and gas industry responsible for decades of damage. Litigation is sometimes needed to achieve satisfactory results in environmental problems. Hopefully, this lawsuit will be the beginning of a new, positive chapter for the state's coastal areas.

Source: USA Today, "Louisiana bays and bayous vanish from nautical maps" Rick Jervis, Feb. 12, 2014

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